Review: waveform* – Last Room

Prolific and utterly moving, you’ll be hard pressed to find modern songwriters this good and this crushing as waveform*. Reviewed by Daniel Belgrad of Vern Matz.
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Written by Daniel Belgrad (Vern Matz)

There is a disquieting push and pull on Last Room, the pitter patter of pain echoing off its colorful walls. In contrast to entrapment, waveform* seems to flutter between ambitions of breaking out and shielding itself away. As if overexerting their emotional selves on impassioned shoegaze pieces, the sadness of waveform* comes from a great and heavy sense of defeat; and this seesaw is heartbreaking when viewed in full circle. “No I can’t relax at all,” they say.

Like Alex G and Slow Pulp, the instrumental thrust of waveform* comes from its acoustic guitars, often doubled, often wide. Dan Poppa and Jarrett Denner are fantastic 21 st century musicians, approaching their instruments without the ornamentation of technical expertise, and instead underscoring a precision of melodic gesture, even a warm crudeness. They are immense talents without the buffoonery of fraudulent genius.

When the gentlemen switch to fuzzy electrics (Tell You, Spill, Blue Disaster), they have a more decisive sense of slacker energy. But, like Pavement, their abilities are great enough, so that the roughness of their pieces serve to humanize the group, drawing you closer. My infatuations with waveform’s aesthetic pallet should not obscure their profound ability to write songs. Lyrically simple, waveform* infuses an exacting amount of musical complexity into their songs, creating lush novelty without sacrificing intimacy.

Often their choruses repeat unassuming phrases, and their lyrics, especially when viewed on paper, are exceedingly descriptive, using metaphor and literary mystique only rarely. If waveform* was a boxer, he/she would land only a few precise jabs before landing a shattering KO. Their songs average 2:30. Their choruses often come in after 8 to 10 words. And they tell you exactly what they’re thinking: “Stay here”, “I’m tired of being alone”, “I wanna bleed from the inside”. The effect of these simple phrases in the context of their chord progressions is remarkable, almost ponderous how they pull so much out of such sparse language.

A group sprung from Connecticut DIY, my life has run curiously parallel to waveform*; we played in the same venues and college basements as early adolescents without ever finding a crossroads. This shows up as relevant because waveform’s most singular and devastating impact is one of yearning nostalgia. And while the music takes me back to the Connecticut winter specifically, the group seems to have transcended the trappings of particular times and places. Their music points to a transcendent type of nostalgia, one where we feel a longing for something that has no object. Music, at its best, has this power – to impart raw feeling stripped of daily concern.

Last Room finds waveform* in between stages – at times pushing the barrier of their sonic and melodic preferences, and in others, embracing pop structures. Hello Goodbye is an incredible example of the latter, a updated 90s track that feels familiar in the best way. Shooting Star is another pop jam, but aside from this, the album is largely unconventional, almost always eschewing some form of pleasantry in favor of something more adventurous. It makes the pop structures incredibly sweet when they appear without oversaturating you with sugar. As they continue onwards, it will be curious to see where the group gravitates, but in any case, they are doing something very right. Prolific and utterly moving, you’ll be hard pressed to find modern songwriters this good and this crushing. Cheers.

Highlights: Hello Goodbye, Shooting Star, Favorite Song, Spill

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Daniel Belgrad
Daniel Belgrad
Articles: 7

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