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ALBUM REVIEW: WALTER TV, ‘CARPE DIEM’

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sinderlyn

The band’s 3rd LP captures the psychic pressures of dealing with the everyday in the post-Internet era.

Band Members:
Pierce McGarry – vocals, guitar
Joe McMurray – drums
Simon Ankenman – bass guitar

Walter TV presents a groovy lo-fi odyssey that grapples with identity, change, and insecurity in the context of a world half-digitized. The band’s blend of intoxicated effects, scattered digital glitches, and analogue instrumentation conjures a creekside dream peppered with Internet artifacts. The record offers the smiley, genuine, and often dreamlike quality that we’ve come to expect from the group, with songs that reinforce the band’s status as the ultimate makers of music-to-float-around-the-lake-to, especially on tracks like “Spring Time” and “Alaska Cruisin” (That’s always been my take, and my bias, since I was introduced to the group watching sailboats from the rocky shores on Stockton Lake, MO). However, we also are treated to dreary, even abyss-gazing tracks that offer plenty of introspective moments that the band nails both sonically and lyrically by manipulating pitch, space, tuning, and tempo. The total product makes for an experience that captures both moments of carefree bliss and jarring emptiness.

Thematically, the record swings between total ease and ruminating reflection. The album’s opener, “Begotten,” rends the stillness with unnerving computer speech, perhaps confused at the prospect of being alive. Organic, clean guitar slinks behind the machine’s ramblings, and the band asks it’s first question, “What am I?” Then, a correction, “No, who am I?” Questions like these pop up again and again amidst the dancey and sun-drenched tracks to follow, threatening to reappear and ruin the fun if it’s gone on too long. This strikes me as a behavior we all likely understand. Grapple with the tough thoughts later. Now isn’t a good time. All the while, we attempt to move forward without addressing the problem. Some tracks, like “U + Y” embody this duality, first setting up the real conflict by asking, “Who are you, and why?” and, “Why have we changed so much / in the last couple months,” just to follow with a play on escapism — “I wanna get you down to the beach all right.” Etc, etc. This constant shift in focus is true to how many of us deal with the questions that haunt us – one moment at a time, and not often enough.

Sonically, Walter TV expands on the lo-fi sounds of the last few years and brings plenty of Pet Sounds’-esque sincerity to reinforce the depth of the hope and despair on the record. Trippy effects and transition sequences sandwiching songs act to place us directly into the shaky headspace of the songs’ narrator. Vocals are almost always processed with some kind of wobbly, shifting magic, and as a result they provide a more primal, more desperate, more chaotic take on the songs’ topics. The band further emphasizes the duality on the record by moving between plucky, rhythmic sounds and shimmering, ephemeral, and, at times, sludgy walls of sound to contrast the feelings of potential yet-to-be seized and potential already wasted to the fullest degree. Though Walter creates plenty of leisurely, danceable moments that are perfect for hiking, swimming, and feasting, they also depart to explore the soupy, confusing, and tense sounds one might associate with existential crisis. Jarring, memey samples serve to contextualize the album in the digital age, starting and finishing the record in computer-read text.

The juxtaposition of the organic and the synthetic, the light-hearted and the abyssal, reminds me of the absurd, hollow time we’re living in, and the huge lengths we go to to avoid coming to grips with reality IRL, which the band captures so utterly. Luckily, the band offers one solution in the face of such existential weirdness via the album’s title: Carpe Diem, pluck the day as it is ripe.

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