Wednesday, on the other hand, has broken through and then some. All the quality was there in their first two albums but it has all come together in a sound that is both familiar yet new and refreshing in a significant way. Your immediate reaction is “okay, this is different” but you fall easily right into the vibe and feel of their whole aesthetic. Despite the differences in style on their varied songs they already have a signature sound, much of it tied together by Xandy Chelmis playing his lap steel and pedal steel the way Christian Savill plays his Fender in Slowdive.
The album gets its title from a Veronica Mars episode: season 2, episode 6 to be exact. There is no obvious connection beyond that to any of the songs or lyrics, but it does serve to place the content in a way that is of a time and place specific to the songwriter. All of Karly Hartzman’s compositions have this specificity about them, and the already overly used expression of “quilt-like” captures what is really a montage rather than a collage effect in her songwriting. She turns the otherwise mundane into the keys to some existential mystery, outlining a path to catharsis.
The core strength of the band is the preternatural guitar work of Jake Lenderman (who elsewhere solos as MJ Lenderman and who also played on the first two Indigo De Souza albums), who bends and cranks and shreds his way through these songs like an axe-wielding road builder in the deep forest. There are too many superior guitar sections to count on these songs and his talent shines all the way through but he never gets ahead of the band, always conscious of the flow and vibe of the songs. But this is a band that knows how to completely let go of their inhibitions and on a song like “Bull Believer” they let it all fly, with Lenderman blazing away in the lead to clear a path for Hartzman’s other-worldly shrieking.
The best song on this great album is “Chosen to Deserve”, which could stand the test of time to be an all-time great. I’m in love with it now, but recency bias might be making me over-rate it at the moment. I don’t think so, but who knows. The choice to extend it to four verses is worthy of admiration in itself, although it could have strived for the glory of five verses, as in Cracker’s “Euro-Trash Girl”, which it reminds me of and resembles in part.
An infusion of Big Thief style alt-folk flavors the excellent “Quarry” with its down-home flow and finely layered guitar parts, as well as the "Waterloo Sunset" inflected melody. Yes, Hartzman sounds more than a little like Lenker on this one, and Ray Davies may deserve a writing credit, but that’s fine. It is in no way a copy or imitation, more a synchronicity of authenticity.
“TV in the Gas Pump” explores a heavily Strokes-adjacent sound that ends in a shrill feedback outro. It covers a lot of ground in just 2:22 and begs to be played over and over again, quickly becoming one of my favorite tracks, along with “Bath County”, a quintessential road-trip-gone-weird banger.
The non-singles all carry their own weight and make their own statements. “Formula One” is an object lesson in how to write a love song that is intimate without being sappy. A connection to southern goth can be found in “Turkey Vultures”, with lyrics as if from the down-the-road neighbor of Ethel Cain.
This is the AOTY for me so far in 2023, and this is a record of exceedingly high quality. Is it too country? Is it too shoegaze? I don’t think it matters one bit. All that matters is that it is too good and it’s all Wednesday, so please join me and say welcome to the next Great American Indie Band. They are the band we were chosen to deserve.
|1||Hot Rotten Grass Smell / 100|
|2||Bull Believer / 100|
|3||Got Shocked / 100|
|4||Formula One / 100|
|5||Chosen to Deserve / 100|
|6||Bath County / 100|
|7||Quarry / 100|
|8||Turkey Vultures / 100|
|9||What’s So Funny / 100|
|10||TV in the Gas Pump / 100|