Featured Image source: NME
Last Friday saw the release of Wallows sophomore album, Tell Me That It’s Over. Immediate reactions to this album, and the Remote EP that came before it, are mixed. Or rather, they’re mixed from the seasoned fandom and pretty consistent from those just joining us.
What it all comes down to is simple. Wallows are daring to try something different — and who are we to punish them?
As is true for anyone finding a favorite band, Wallows found me right when I needed them most. It’s spring of 2019, and my little sister is getting ready for a high school dance as I am getting ready to graduate college. Both of these events make us feel like our youth is over, even though our whole lives are ahead. That exact feeling was the crux of 2018s Spring EP and 2019s Nothing Happens, skyrocketing both to the top of my Spotify on repeat in the years to come.
Now, you don’t need me to tell you what happened in the year after 2019. We’ve all changed, and so have Dylan Minnette, Braeden LeMasters, and Cole Preston.
You see, what’s charming about Nothing Happens was that it felt like listening to your three best friends from high school performing in your basement. If I had to theorize why fans are wary of Tell Me That It’s Over, it would be that the album doesn’t always strike that same intimacy — but that’s because it takes risks.
The album opens on near stand-alone vocals from Dylan Minnette with “Hard To Believe,” welcoming fans to the album with his signature, valley-deep vocals. The song is the perfect welcome to the new era, taking lyrics oozing with nostalgia and combining them with unique instrumental choices. Between the 80s-esque instrument break and later whistle portion, this new brand of Wallows indie is somewhere between pop throwback and folk, impossible to pin down on purpose.
To that end, something that has been fun to see Wallows lean into is this idea of “fake eighties.” It’s not that their music or aesthetic look and sounds like it came from the 1980s, rather what people my age think the 1980s looked and sounded like. While this certainly had its moments in their earlier music, it seems to have a tight hold on Remote (see “Virtual Aerobics”) but reaches a happy medium in Tell Me That It’s Over. Braeden Lemasters solo track “That’s What I Get” features heavy synthesizer moments that sound like someone who is inspired by a band whose source material is Duran Duran.
If I had to pick a standout track from the non-singles, immediately I would turn to “Marvelous.” This feels like one of those songs that is meant to be screamed back at the boys from the barricade with your best friends. The lyrics roll off your tongue, “have a marvelous time, I won’t get you off of my mind,” and they are delivered with an irresistible peppiness, demanding that you bop your head along.
A special treat for the long term Wallows fans is “Permanent Price,” the first duet between Dylan Minette and his girlfriend, Lydia Night of The Regrettes, to be released under Wallows (their first duet belongs to The Regrettes as a single, “Pumpkin.”) Night is a punk princess powerhouse a la Gwen Stefani in her role with The Regrettes, and her delicate vocals in “Permanent Price” show us a delicious side of her we may not get otherwise.
The songs are good, people. There is no debating that. But they aren’t as cozy as Nothing Happens. Is that a bad thing? Well, that is for each fan to decide. You can tell the boys have grown, you can tell they are trying to stand out in a genre that is ever-expanding into the mainstream, and you can tell that they are performing with even more confidence. This is exactly what we should want for them — but understandably, there are always going to be people who cling to old songs and never want to let go.
As a fan, is Tell Me That It’s Over my favorite? I won’t lie and say yes. Any album from any band has some tough competition going against Nothing Happens, for that matter. But as someone who wants these three best friends to continue to grow and succeed? Tell Me That It’s Over captures exactly what it should.
Hannah is an accidental internet meme, drummer, loud talker, and proud owner of a purse that functions as a working analog clock. She got the media writer gene from her dad, PF Wilson, another writer for Pop Culture Beast. Her favorite bands come and go on a seasonal rotation, but Marina & The Diamonds and Say Anything are here to say. She’s probably watching The Grand Budapest Hotel right now, but if she isn’t, she’s out photographing rock concerts.