Los Angeles-based indie-rock trio Wallows had nothing to lose in experimenting on its debut album — and it resulted in brilliance, anyway.
The band’s debut LP, Nothing Happens, was released Friday. The 11-track album emanates soothing ’80s vibes that are hardly seen in contemporary music, which provokes the question: Why is something so good so rare now?
Wallows co-vocalist, keyboardist and guitarist Dylan Minnette is more prominently known for his role of Clay Jensen on Netflix’s hit show, 13 Reasons Why. He admitted in an interview with Variance Magazine, “I may be on a show now, but any second or chance I get, whether it be between seasons or otherwise, it’s all about Wallows.”
Minnette and his musical counterparts, co-vocalist and lead guitarist Braeden Lemasters and drummer Cole Preston, met as children in a Southern California program called “Join the Band.” They formed a group and have performed together since under different monikers, eventually playing at the 2011 Vans Warped Tour as The Feaver. The band’s single, “Pleaser,” was released in April 2017 and marks the group’s first work as Wallows.
Nothing Happens is the best way Wallows could have made a name for itself. Producing sensational music with nonstop feel-good guitar riffs, pounding drums and invigorating bass lines, Wallows does next to nothing wrong on its debut (except for an indescribably weird but brief instrumental in “Treacherous Doctor” that almost bares resemblance to a distorted bass meme). No track on the album is substandard or off-putting, and it’s a great listen all the way through.
Here is a breakdown of the best five tracks from Nothing Happens:
5. “Worlds Apart”
“Worlds Apart” feels like the replication of a sad yet acceptable ending to a movie. Introduced by a soothing guitar, the track tells the story of a broken relationship that still ends on good terms: “Our room is now vacant / The beds are well made.” Lemasters pleads the relationship falling apart was inevitable: “We don’t have a choice / The curtains have closed / I’m making a point / But you’ll never know.” The serene guitar is practically juxtaposed by the ending, as the drumming intensifies and begins to sound like shots being fired. Lemasters’ monotonous vocals work well to exhibit how dreary someone can feel from a terminated relationship, but as the exciting instrumentation exhibits, life goes on and becomes exhilarating once more.
4. “Are You Bored Yet? (feat. Clairo)”
Perfected by soft drumming and mesmerizing piano chords, “Are You Bored Yet?” imparts the tale of two people in a relationship trying to decide if they’re both satisfied or if they should just squander it. Minnette asks his significant other the tough questions: “When we get old, will we regret this? / Too young to think about all that s--- / And stalling only goes so far when you’ve got a head start.” Clairo’s subdued vocals ask Minnette to disclose his true feelings on the pairing: “If you could tell me how you’re feeling, maybe we’d get through this undefeated.” The instrumentation is insanely dreamy and makes the lyrics seem that much more profound.
3. “Ice Cold Pool”
Imagine the musical intro to a game show, and the instrumentation of “Ice Cold Pool” should be what comes to mind. Verse two of the track is featured on “Underneath the Streetlights in the Winter Outside Your House,” a song that has been performed by the band since it went by the moniker The Narwhals. The track focuses around Las Vegas and its notability for sexual escapades, as the opening lyrics say: “We both lost our innocence to heaven on Las Vegas.” But, Lemasters adds, these events are fine because it doesn’t involve prostitution or money: “It’s not a crime if you take what’s given / It’s just a crime if you’re payin’ for it / What’s the fun if you know what’s comin’?” The lyrics become more eloquent as the song continues, trumpets make an appearance and the track will most definitely be put on repeat.
2. “Do Not Wait”
Closing out the album is “Do Not Wait,” a six-and-a-half minute thriller filled with emotion, spoken word and a plethora instruments. The track can be split into three key parts. To begin, Minnette sings poetic lyrics that are perhaps the darkest we see on the album, saying: “There’s a time you’ll seek out a disguise when you think people hate you the most / And it gets worse before it gets better; that’s one thing I have come to know / Just so you know, do not wait.” Following that is the bridge of Minnette talking and reflecting on relationships while Lemasters sings the words “nothing happens” in the background: “Make a promise to your ex (nothing happens) / He was terrified of sex (nothing happens) / Most times, humiliating (nothing happens) / Something you’ll wanna forget (nothing happens).” The track closes with an instrumental that eventually fades to the same guitar riff that started the album. Everything comes full circle, and it’s excellent.
1. “Only Friend”
This song was the perfect way to open the album, especially if this is a listener’s first taste of Wallows. The track only has four stanzas, but its infectious guitar riff, transfixing synths, ravishing lyricism and overall catchiness are irresistible and will leave everyone wanting more. Minnette vocalizes that he misses this girl, perhaps a past lover or just a friend, and he doesn’t feel he can continue without her: “You’re signing off again, but you’re my only friend / I don’t know what to say / I feel the ending close.” The lyrics ends with him showing his exceptional vocal talent while asking, “When it’s all said and done, will you need me too, girl?” From there the song transitions to entrancing synths and guitar to entice listeners. Every aspect of the song is masterful, and it’s easily the best track on Nothing Happens.