Welcome to another edition of Fast Five. The fall release calendar has hit us with quite the week of new tunes, as the leaves finally start to change colors (at least in the Midwest). The indie pop excellence refuses to cease, with From Indian Lakes continuing to bring about their soothing, multi-layered atmosphere with a monolith of a release. Hovvdy does the same with a much lighter and minimalist affair. Vagabon’s Laetitia Tamko plays a lo-fi style in this vein as well, but she builds up instead of stripping down to fully press into her potential. Then there are Jimmy Eat World and White Reaper’s higher-energy alternative rock records. Though one act is long into their career and the other is only a few releases in, they both rely on big riffs, sweet hooks, and a whole lot of nostalgic goodness.
From Indian Lakes – Dimly Lit
From Indian Lakes has evolved their sound quite spectacularly since their post-hardcore days, and their blossoming indie pop sound has epitomized haunting textures. This became evident on Everything Feels Better Now, and on Dimly Lit, the outfit goes all in with a 16-track epic that keeps you sucked in for its entire hour runtime. It may not always be ideal for singling out individual tracks from one another, but that’s alright — it’s designed as a collective listen for its blended atmosphere of keyboard, echoing guitar, and Joey Vannucchi’s silky vocal delivery. From the repetitive thud of “Your Heartbeat Against Mine” to reverberating dream pop of “No One Else,” Dimly Lit proves that From Indian Lakes is heads and shoulders above their indie pop counterparts when it comes to pleasing the ears. It’s safe to say they’ve never sounded this aesthetically impressive.
Hovvdy – Heavy Lifter
Lovers of calming lo-fi tunes are in luck, as Hovvdy’s Heavy Lifter is a whimsical journey across light and buoyant soundscapes. Most of the time, the Austin duo plugs in a minimalist approach to indie pop rock, scattering their canvas with piano and echoing vocals. “Mr. Lee” and “Tools” rely on chill vibes, with the former’s sparse instrumentation making it hop and latter reminding of Bon Iver with its sleek and thoughtful autotune. Sticking to the mantra of simplicity on “Cathedral” still works, as a blend of acoustic and electric guitar gets the job done with tender musical textures and a whole lot of lift. Hovvdy’s biggest release to date churns out bedroom pop that’s as delightful as the genre has to offer. Heavy Lifter works both as a comforting backdrop and an in-the-moment slice of bliss.
Jimmy Eat World – Surviving
Jimmy Eat World has produced an album as sonically close as they could to Futures with their new full-length, Surviving. That’s certainly endearing to hear 15 years past the band’s meatiest set of songs. Album 10 is a guitar-heavy record that comes without frills or gimmicks, and that’s the way Jim Adkins and gang have operated throughout their two-plus decades. It’s got its shiny hooks (“Criminal Energy”), it’s got its moving mid-tempo moments (“One Mil”), and it’s got songs that ascend higher and higher until their ending (the chorus-less title track). Adkins refers to the album title as reflective of the need to live, not simply survive. While it may not necessarily reflect the career of an act surviving on consistency more than anything, Jimmy Eat World provides enough hearty alternative rock to remain fresh on Surviving.
Vagabon – Vagabon
Cameroon-born indie rock/lo-fi musician Laetitia Tamko, known as Vagabon, showed a lot of promise on her debut 2017 album, Infinite Worlds. She builds on that on the self-titled sophomore disc, playing around with synths and strings to create a bigger and more impactful sound. The result is an album that has enough simplicity to drive home Tamko’s wiry, accented voice, yet offers a grander stylistic resonance as well. But everything points back to the singer-songwriter’s musical identity, which comes out in full — she wrote and played almost every element captured on the record. The feminist anthology “Every Woman” and introspective, metaphor-laden “Flood” (one of several references to floods she imprints on the listener) are where Vagabon’s budding musical form truly comes to life.
White Reaper – You Deserve Love
The ‘70s rock revival that White Reaper has unleashed across their career hasn’t reached its full potential until their third record, You Deserve Love. Mostly, it’s because they up the ante this time around when it comes to pop sensibility — at no detriment to their beefy garage rock style that keeps their core raw and invigorating. Having producer Jay Joyce at the helm sure helps: He has buoyed releases from Cage the Elephant, Halestorm, and other rock acts that have been ushered into the mainstream. You can hear it on “Real Long Time,” “Saturday,” and first single “Might Be Right,” songs with big, heavy choruses that bring Cheap Trick and The Cars to mind. White Reaper titled a previous album White Reaper Does It Again, but You Deserve Love is truly the album where they’ve finally done it.