Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 21/4
Written by: HES on 29/09/2016 15:23:33
Microwave is one of those bands that I can’t believe has kept under the radar this long. For the same reason, I only got around to listening to their 2014 debut “Stovall" when I saw them on the poster for this year’s edition of Chicago, IL’s Riot Fest & Carnival, where they later turned out horribly to be clashing with Motion City Soundtrack (we did have time to check out vocalist Nathan Hardy’s short but sweet acoustic set in a sponsored tent at the festival, however). The Atlanta, GA -born band finally seems to have caught the hype-wave as SideOneDummy signed them last year, and is now releasing the retro-covered and anticipated follow-up, “Much Love".
The sound of “Much Love" is heavily dominated by Hardy’s sometimes soft and cutesy vocals on tracks like “Drown" juxtaposed with his emotional and scarce screams on tracks like “Busy". This leaves space in the compositions for some extremely catchy melodic hooks, while also maintaining enough edge to not drown in sweetness. But the album also oozes a new, unpolished sound exemplified by the sharp guitar riffs in “Neighbors" showing teeth, grungy melancholy in the opener “Roaches”, and the almost Brand New-style, rhythmic moodiness supported by a backdrop of bluesy guitar work in “Whimper". Another general motif of “Much Love" is an interesting play with a distinct acoustic sound, usually at the beginning of the tracks. For example, “Dull" starts with what sounds like an acoustic recording of Hardy’s vocals and guitar that then slowly fades into a more studio-like sound, and the same style is operative in the opening segment of “Vomit", where the flat sound of far-away drums opens the track.
But what generally makes “Much Love" a better release than most is its insisting on not being either or; whilst still keeping some of the more cutesy elements, the band clearly has ambition beyond that, and lets its listener stay in some kind of suspension between two chairs where one is moody, yell-y indie and the other is silky, soft falsetto. It’s hard to predict if it actually hits any of those target group listeners for the same reason. The composition dynamics are beyond the regular ‘loud’ and ‘quiet’ or ‘hard’ and ‘soft’; the contrast is somewhat less predictable, as it seems to involve more elements than is usual.
I would be inclined to say that I would have liked to see a bit more edge on “Much Love", but then, when hearing a track like “Lighterless", you somewhat understand the band’s choice of sticking with the catchiness. At the same time, the group also excels at creating amazing mental images that just stick with you through lyricism, like “Lighterless”’ ”Pacing in the driveway, I’m the nemesis of fun with soggy hot dog buns from spilling warm beer in my trunk. Throwing down my jacket as I walk inside, I send a cloudy CD case flying off the side of a dresser from Ikea that I can’t get right”. Just marvellous.
Download: Lighterless, Neighbors, Dull, Whimper
For The Fans Of: Tigers Jaw, Basement, Transit
Release date 30.09.2016