Following their 2018 EP and 2019 debut album Nothing Happens, Wallows emerged as a dynamic up-and-comer on the indie rock scene. Striking a balance between electric exhilaration and gritty angst, Dylan Minnette, Braeden Lemasters and Cole Preston captured coming-of-age turbulence amid a vibrant blur of distorted synths, punchy guitar riffs and hazy vocals. Three years after Nothing Happens, Wallows’ sophomore album Tell Me That It’s Over sees the band entering a new era while retaining its artistic roots.
Building on the often frenetic yet surprisingly cohesive instrumentation of Wallows’ earlier works, the record’s lead single “I Don’t Want to Talk” features a whistling flutelike melody layered atop of a lively harmonica and driving drum beat. Supported by this bright instrumental medley, the single shines on the surface, yet its candid lyrics reveal exposed depths. Between suggestive verses that express the insecurities caused by physical and emotional distance in a relationship, vocalists Minnette and Lemasters make an unapologetically introspective confession in the chorus: “I’m not alright, but I don’t need comfort/ I don’t want to talk.” Contrasted with the outwardly elated tune, this hints at the guarded fears and uncertainties lurking behind Wallows’ spirited facade.
Through similarly raw lyricism, the group peels back this facade even further in “That’s What I Get” by overlaying melancholia with almost painful self-awareness. Accompanied by string instruments and suffused with the occasional synth burst, the song’s staccato piano notes capture the feeling of defeat after a relationship has lost its spark. Trading the catchy hooks and sonic buoyancy of “I Don’t Want to Talk” for stripped instrumentals, “That’s What I Get” walks the fine line between simple and mundane. As it culminates in the repetition of the line “That’s what I get for falling in love,” the song briefly crosses into the territory of tedium.
Other songs see the Los Angeles trio embarking on a deeper ’80s-inspired exploration, producing refreshing standout tracks while still staying true to its indie and bedroom pop roots. Over an array of bouncy synths, pulsating guitars and soft-spoken vocals, “At the End of the Day” opens with the gentle injunction, “Please lay your head here on my shoulder.” Both an intimate address to a partner and a callback to synthpop beats of the ’80s, the track escalates into a more vigorous dance number as reverbed guitars and energetic drums surface prominently in the second verse. Meanwhile, the shimmering synth-heavy melody and almost deliberately unrushed rhythm of “Hurts Me” finds Wallows developing a more carefree take on electronic nostalgia.
Tell Me That It’s Over does drag slightly, however, with songs that lose their grasp on intrigue. “Hard to Believe” makes a disjointed progression from string instruments and synths to blaring percussion, and the breezy instrumentals of “Especially You” fail to make a lasting auditory impression, especially compared to more clearly defined tracks. Yet, between displays of vulnerability and expansive ’80s-tinged experimentation, these tracks are few and far between.
Wallows’ sophomore album closes with the sonic triumph “Guitar Romantic Search Adventure.” As the title suggests, the song takes listeners on an evocative, melodic journey in about four minutes — the longest song on the record. The band takes advantage of every extra moment to construct captivating instrumental bridges; the track begins with a lilting piano tune and acoustic guitar strum, gradually introduces the delicate ebb and flow of background electronics and culminates in a powerful wave of reverberating synths. A direct reference to the album’s title, poignant lyrics such as “Wish we could cancel time/ Or let it all fly by/ Just tell me that it’s over now” engulf the track in Wallows’ trademark coming-of-age nostalgia.
Spotlighting the multifaceted trio’s ability to deliver wistfully resonant messages through honest lyricism and an intricate blend of genres, Tell Me That It’s Over demonstrates Wallows’ promising progression and maturity over the last few years. Don’t let the album title mislead you — it’s far from over for Wallows.