Album Review: Wavves – Afraid of Heights

by Amanda Danielle
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I’ve been an on again / off again Wavves fan for a few years. It’s been a love, hate, dysfunctional type of relationship for painfully obvious reasons. Growing up in Southern California and being trapped in a coastal town, this sound embodies the excruciating prolonged beach teen angst that just about all of us have grappled with or continue to fight against. The factory made watered down wannabe punk rock bands that have been shoved in our general direction have been rejected with pretty vile reactions (we generally keep that Lords of Dogtown mentality to say the least). We’ve got our local punk, ska, rock bands thank you very much, and we like the fact they work as bouncers on the weekends to pay for booze and drugs and still live at home with their parents.

Wavves crushes all of our ‘locals only’ territorial rules and have been universally accepted, which astounds me and makes me extremely proud simultaneously. This sound that we felt was ours as a culture for so long has spread like chlamydia at a Vegas pool party and has maintained its raw messy grunge garage punk feel. The notoriety hasn’t changed the way the band writes, sounds, or acts. Nathan Williams started Wavves in 2008 as he stumbled through Garageband and turned out a hodgepodge mixture of what we think is music. At first listen it almost sounds like noise, but as you continue to get sucked into the dark world of Williams your ears gradually decipher what was intended for you to hear… with one catch; you have to work for it.

Williams was understandably taken aback when he gained so much attention seemingly overnight, and like most Cinderella stories has struggled to carry that weight that fame inevitably brings. I’d say he’s handled himself quite well after the whole Primavera ordeal and basically said hey shit happens… my bad… moving on. Which is more than I can say for anyone in the public eye nowadays , artists are so quick to dismissively point fingers. The down to Earth relatable quality of Williams translates entirely into his music, as does his personal demons. The lyrics are simple yet piercing and the way Williams drones on over a record really punches you straight in the throat.

Afraid of Heights sounds like a 1960’s beach party on acid, with a joint and a .40 to level you out while tapering off. There’s no better description. The previously released singles “Sail To the Sun” and “Demon to Lean On” start off the LP and we’re quickly reminded the direction the band is going in. It’s morose and dark calibrated only by the occasional upbeat tempo piece. The title track gives you a deceivingly optimistic view until you realize the lyrics you’re singing along to are rendering you hopeless and you relate it to your own life and begin to remember why you hate your parents and all your friends. 

Williams stated that although the band isn’t religious, their religious upbringings and infamous Catholic guilt had influenced their tunes (please see video for “Sail To the Sun”).  “Everything Is My Fault” is one of my favorite songs with it’s slow strumming guitars and soft chanting vocals it is almost impossible to not indulge in some self sorrow. “I Can’t Dream” is the perfect way to end the LP. The distorted vocals clearly conclude a story that has been woven through all the previous tracks. Williams confesses ‘I can finally sleep, but I can’t dream, I don’t wanna remember anything’ repeatedly with some sort of resolve. It’s a calculated and powerful way to leave us with our own thoughts.

Overall this LP is a great way to induce nostalgia and rouse some feelings you might be suppressing, or if you live in your Facebook make believe perfect world then you can just pretend and act angsty after listening to blend in with reality. Wavves seems to have a hold over their many supporters and I look forward to everything that comes next. We could all use a bit of honesty in music and it’s something guaranteed with every single record. If you’re in LA, you can catch them on March 20th at The Echo and I might just see you there. Cheers xx

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One thought on “Album Review: Wavves – Afraid of Heights

  1. Pingback: #NewMusicTuesday – March 26th | Music Streetlight

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