It’s been a pretty good year for fans of bands like American Football. On top of the new Owen record, featuring Mike Kinsella, there was Transit’s Listen & Forgive, which was heavily influenced by the ‘90s emo pioneers. And now to end the year, Wavelets has released Athaletics, which meshes the Midwestern-emo sound of American Football with a grittier punk sound.
For those of you not aware, Wavelets contains two members of the Gainesville, Florida pop-punk group Dikembe, including Steven Gray, the singer of both bands. While Dikembe is faster and more punk oriented, Wavelets isn’t afraid to slow things down, creating a sound full of bright, jumpy guitar riffs and driving drum beats. Gray’s voice is notably hoarser here than it is with his other band, as evident in the extremely catchy “We’re Really Jazzed About the Gig.”
There’s something endearing about Gray’s voice. While it’s far from the most technically proficient voice around, the “everyman” charm about it is great, not to mention that it contrasts perfectly with the shimmering guitar work. Listen to “Bad Scene, Jawbreaker’s Fault” for a great example of this.
Although the vocals are good, the instrumentation on Athaletics is really the main draw. With expert guitar work, it’s hard for any listener not to get roped into listening to every song repeatedly. One notable section would be the outro to “Luke Moses Loves Stale Food,” which weaves multiple riffs together seamlessly, creating a nice tapestry of sound. Also, the band wins the award for “Best Song Titles of the Year.” Hands down.
The best song of the bunch would be “Tailfoot,” which is slightly slower than the rest of the songs on Athaletics and also one of the shortest tracks. As Gray croons over the lead riff in the intro, you can’t help but bob your head along, and when Gray belts out his vocals before the end, it makes for one of the best moments on the record. Also, don’t skip out on the album closer, “Cannonball,” as the final vocal performance is a gang vocal shout-along that will surely become a concert staple.
While there is much to praise about the album, this isn’t to say the record is perfect. The biggest problem, and really the only one, with Athaletics is that nearly every song follows the same formula to the point where it’s hard to differentiate between them, with the exception of “Tailfoot.” The Dangerous Summer was accused of creating songs that sound too similar with their album War Paint, and Wavelets kind of falls into the same trap with Athaletics. This is a small gripe, though it would be nice to see a bit more range and distinction among the songs on future releases.
Though not perfect, the first full-length from Wavelets shows a lot of promise for future releases. The quirky quintet will definitely be a band to watch in the future, as it continues its career driven by the unique emo-punk-indie-awesome-whatever style.