Wallows plants sensational seed of indie rock evolution in ‘Remote’

Wallows
Atlantic Records/Courtesy

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

After being nationally recognized as Clay Jensen in the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” Dylan Minnette redirected his attention to sculpting a prominent reputation in the musical world for him and his band, Wallows. With the viral successes of singles such as “Are You Bored Yet?” and “These Days,” alongside their fast-growing fan base, Minnette and his bandmates, Braeden Lemasters and Cole Preston, are on pace to becoming the next poster child of indie music. 

The Oct. 23 release of Remote offers a glimpse into the band’s vision on the complicated domain of human relationships and connections. On past albums, Wallows has been praised for their iconic alternative sound coupled with clever lyricism and unique instrumental conviction. In contrast, Remote diverges slightly from this original foundation and adds a more distinct, refined sound to their discography.

The collection opens with “Virtual Aerobics,” a short and sweet dedication to the joys of spending quality time with another person, no matter the activity. Especially given the current circumstances of the world, Wallows displays to fans a simple yet significant reminder to keep their spirits high. The music video is reflective of this, as the three bandmates lightheartedly dance and laugh to a literal virtual aerobic. 

The record carries a hypnotic melody; it’s a song to get absolutely lost in, with a singable chorus juxtaposing a monotone bridge verse. These two diverse voices in “Virtual Aerobics” contribute to the bustling final refrain, aiding the track to reach its ensemble peak and create a memorable, vibrant space of sonic bliss. This is emblematic of dissipating distress after a pleasant day spent with close friends, the golden message running through the song.

Continuing this theme, “Nobody Gets Me (Like You),” as the title suggests, echoes how a unique connection between two individuals is wholly invaluable. The song captivates the listener with its seamless transitions between verses, sprinkled with tambourine strikes and fuzzy electronic scratches. It is a lively, playful and head-bobbing piece, one that would fit a scene of exciting chaos ensuing right before a summer road trip.

But it’s not always a rosy picture being painted in Remote. “Coastlines” speaks to the difficult realities of long-distance relationships. Straying from the traditional fusion of numerous rock instruments, the band predominantly zeroes in on a bass and a drum set, giving more limelight to the raw lyrics. Minnette angstily repeats, “When we’re on different coastlines/ I don’t want to think about it.” 

“Wish Me Luck,” a culminating anthem characterized by modulating intonation blended with soft symphonic-like support and hand claps, sheds light on issues such as hidden insecurities and episodes of overthinking. Both this track and “Coastlines” effectively capture all the ups and downs of human relationships in a more focused setting that deviates from the quintessential indie rock genre.

However, the choices of instrumentation in parts of the EP dance on a fine line between noise and nuance. “Talk Like That” and “Dig What You Dug” both possess a fair amount of aural dissonance that unfortunately drowns out much of the rich vocals. The two tracks boast strikingly similar structure, as they both follow the same staccato-like, chanting patterns and climatic pauses just before revisiting an established melodic phrase. This resemblance degrades both records of their individuality and underwhelmingly distracts from the pure substance of the songs themselves. It is ultimately a disservice to what otherwise would have been two lyrically unique additions to the EP.

But despite some minor shortcomings, Remote certainly shows signs of great promise for the future of Wallows. It is evident that the band is attempting to experiment and trailblaze a new direction in their sound. And while the six installments on Remote cannot determine the triumph of this decision quite yet, the EP is a signal to fans of an upcoming evolution for the band, as it embarks on a more mature phase in its musical journey.

Contact Ashley Tsai at [email protected].