Afraid Of Heights
Even dating back to 2010’s King Of The Beach, Nathan Williams’ songwriting methods have never really been subtle. The “breakout” effort was touted as an album about how “his old friends hate him, girls won’t listen, and he’s fucked up” but given it’s been three years since the LP hit shelves and the pop sheen has worn off, did anyone actually care about the guy who wrote it? Wavves’ Afraid Of Heights is a model example of an album that doesn’t beg you to notice its complications because there’s simply no way around them. Like Life Sux, it’s a gimmick-free expansion on musical structure that isn’t panicky about switching out head-melting guitar pop for a more expressive alt feel. Sonic Youth made a similar transition from Sister to Daydream Nation, and with writing that’s clean, persuasively melodic and more complex than Zelda’s inability to not get kidnapped, the fourth studio LP is painfully unique.
Much of Afraid Of Heights excels on that by ushering in well-crafted songs. The cello kick to “Dog” paired with the splitting honesty on “Demon To Lean On” presents a side to Wavves that can literally cut you with a chorus, and whereas “Sail To The Sun” and “Paranoid” pulsate with speed, collisions like “Beat Me Up” scratch limitations to open up garage pop. Williams is aware that getting old sucks and his growth has even allowed Stephen Pope to underline bass parts (“That’s On Me”, “Gimme A Knife”) while he layers his thoughts on songs citing self-loathing. “Green Eyes” is an easy stand-out from older days because it was a song that knew how to be violently sincere. “Everything Is My Fault” and the record’s closer, “I Can’t Dream”, continue where it left off by becoming simple sentiments that, adjacent to the rest of Afraid Of Heights, carve with a new aesthetic. It may sound worn but since Williams and the rest of Wavves aren’t the same slackers they used to be two years ago, it’s a step into an incomparable direction.
Listen: “Afraid Of Heights”, “Dog”, “Beat Me Up” || Watch: Wavves – “Demon To Lean On”