Wavves is not a band that tends to stray too far from their comfort zone, but that familiarity might be a good thing. The band already has a string of LPs under their belt, something of an accomplishment considering they’ve only been around since 2008. This has given them an extended playing field on which to develop their own sound and mature as artists, a fact that shines through greatly on their newest album V.
Compared to 2013’s Afraid of Heights, this release is grittier, but not dark enough to be thoroughly depressing. It’s certainly less danceable, with lead singer Nathan Williams’ voice fading into the background amongst fuzzy guitars and rolling drums. However, it’s still birthed in a way that is distinctly Wavves – that California vibe is impossible to ignore. While their fourth studio album boasted tracks with titles such as “Everything Is My Fault”, centering firmly on a theme of self-pity, this one finds solid ground in its willingness to move forward.
Opening with “Heavy Metal Detox”, questions such as “Have I lived too long? Why does my head hurt?” bring us right into the thick of Williams’ self-realization: he’s beginning to challenge his reality instead of passively accepting it. From there we move into “Pony”, with the refrain “It gets better, it’d better” trying to convince us so that maybe Williams can convince himself. For as much as the album is about recognizing your vices and ridding yourself of them, best exemplified in “Way Too Much”, it also reads like an apology to everyone his vices have ever hurt. He’s being brutally honest in song because he can’t be confrontational in person. It’s the equivalent of packing your bags without saying goodbye and wondering if anyone will even care enough to miss you, but knowing that it doesn’t matter anyway. From this detachment comes an incredible sense of calm that permeates every second of the 11-track album – things can fall apart completely, but ultimately it’s okay because starting over is always an option.
Toward the end of our 31-minute journey we meet “Tarantula”, which is by far the highlight of the record. It’s reminiscent of Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta” in that it’s most definitely the song some angst-ridden suburban teenager has on repeat in their bedroom and knows all the words to. This isn’t to dismiss it as a trite anthem of pseudo-aggression, though. The chorus is supremely catchy and the tune is even similar to their hit “Sail To the Sun” – Nathan Williams’ voice may have lacked prominence on the rest of the album, but it’s here that it manages to win us over once again. “Cry Baby” finishes it all out with harsher vocals and darker imagery, reminding the listener that although this batch of songs comes from a place of being all grown up and self-aware, it’s also self-revealing, sometimes even painfully so.