Despite the proliferation of DIY music production tools, it is still very rare to hear an unsigned band put out a “professional” sounding album. A lot of bands go crazy with the production aspects. Either things get mixed too glossy, or they don’t utilize the tools enough. That is the first thing that struck me about Stellar Young. Everything At Once sounds great. They clearly cared enough about the resulting album to get shit done right.
Everything At Once is a shiny little indie rock record. The thing is filled to the brim with hooks. The band certainly has the chops to produce great songs. The album opens with “Playing With Guns,” which is a great example of what to expect. Catchy indie rock informed by power pop. Follow up songs “Restless” and “The Universe Is A Bully” are more of the same. A little faster, but just furthering the feel. These songs feature great interplay between the guitars.
Musically, this album is really strong. The two guitars and keyboard play off each other very well. There is definitely a lot going on, but nothing becomes super overpowering. The vocals (lead and background) are the real show. The vocal interplay on the (kind of) dancey “We Own Nothing” are probably the best example of this. Everyone is playing their part to a T.
Overall, I don’t have many complaints about this record. It might be a little long? The shortest song, “As You Go,” is just this side of four minutes. The songs are certainly good, but the end product feels a bit too much for me. A 10 song record coming in at 46 minutes is a little much (for this type of thing). Granted, I don’t listen to this kind of thing with much frequency. This is a minor quibble. If you want to listen to some well made indie rock that is heavy on the pop side of things, there is little reason not to give this a go. It is an enjoyable record that will probably put you in a good mood.
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After a solid EP and a fantastic split 7″ with Parker, Dowsing is a band that has a lot to live up to. I had very high hopes for this full length, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t exceed those. It’s Still Pretty Terrible takes all the things Dowsing has put out and builds on them. It is fantastic listen.
Dowsing fits in with the finest tradition of Midwest indie/emo bands. The songs are endlessly catchy without being saccharine. The instrumentation is intricate without getting all wanky. If their previous EP was more than a little rooted in the works of The Weakerthans, It’s Still Pretty Terrible adds a strong dose of The Promise Ring or Braid to it.
The rise and fall of this record is really what makes it. Instrumental opener, “Get Dead,” starts a great six song progression. The record builds from a mellow start to a fantastic peak on “Gengar! Gengar! Gengar!,” only to scale back to the album centerpiece of “Littoral.”
Some of the strongest songs on here are the uptempo, jangly ones. The aforementioned “Gengar! Gengar! Gengar!” is a quick number that could rival any of the Midwest emo pop songs from the 1990s. “Midwest Living” fucking kills it with the 90’s jangle and gang vocals at the end.
There are only two issues I have with this record, and those are just lame personal preference things. I am not stoked on fade out endings, so the end of “Littoral” kind of bums me out. I’m also a bigger fan of the version of “Somerset” on their split with Parker than I am of this version here. But, hey, both those songs are still awesome.
I get stoked whenever I get to talk about great bands that rep Illinois, so I might have a bias here. That said, this record is everything I would want it to be. People still keep talking about some “emo revival” thing happening now. If that is a thing, It’s Still Pretty Terrible is a must have for any collection that is based around that.
Count Your Lucky Stars
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