Album Review: Wallows – Nothing Happens

By Kwase Lane, Staff Writer
[Atlantic; 2019]
Rating: 7.5/10

Key tracks: “Are You Bored Yet?”, “Scrawny”, “Ice Cold Pool”

On their debut album, Nothing Happens, Wallows dyes their colorful, upbeat instrumentation a dark gray with their moody vocals. The project is filled with songs that make for excellent background music, but it rewards close listeners with even more melancholy vibes. Nothing Happens treads the line between depressing and rosy nostalgia, stumbling back and forth at just the right time to keep the listener engaged.

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“Are You Bored Yet?”, the album’s fourth track, offers somber vocals over a danceable beat. Even with the energetic melody, something feels off. There’s a strange sense of longing conveyed in the hollow airiness of the beat. Clairo’s light vocals further emphasize the sense of loss that’s clawing at the underside of this dreamy piece. All the elements blend into a fun song that doesn’t feel out of place on this forlorn project.

“Scrawny” is a punchy piece that almost entirely sheds the album’s heavy-hearted tone. It’s surprisingly easy to lose yourself in the energetic pounding and forget about the sadness that pervades the other songs. This newfound passion and the song’s simple chorus lend the piece an anthemic quality without feeling overly obnoxious. The lyrics mirror the upbeat facade present in this track, pointing out the singer’s paper-thin persona and his desire for someone to come along and pierce the veil.

“Ice Cold Pool” is exceedingly cheery – that is until the singing starts. The triumphant saxophone gives way to more melancholy singing. Even when they try to lend the piece more buoyancy, they are still dragged down by sulking vocals. By the time they are allowed to exist without the singing, they feel tainted by crestfallen lyrics. Even still the groovy nature and myriad tones stand out against the more one-note tracks on this album.

Nothing Happens is an unquestionably solid debut. It’s equal parts somber and sweet, but that just makes the whole project even more saddening. I can’t imagine anyone disliking this project outright. At its worst, it’s a little underwhelming, but when they’re at the top of their game, Wallows may have you crying without even knowing why.

Listen here:

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