It’s a very positive feeling here: like when you have finally made out with your crush, after pining and making slow movements for weeks. You ordered them a ride home, fell asleep in their leftover warmth, to be woken up by the sun with a feeling of peace. Something calls you to your window, and Dweller’s self-titled album provides a virtual fire escape for you to chain-smoke a third of your pack of Spirits to. You could weave some narrative to these ten songs, but it’s easier – and far more enjoyable – to just allow yourself to be picked up and carried off by their blend of folksy songwriting style and limber exploration of reverb-laden guitar.
Their eponymous album starts off with a yearning for the shore. Some reliable Real Estate vibes add comfortability, but they don’t let the similarities override their style. The lyrics here are simple and relatable, and the band doesn’t ever make the attempt to stretch into something that they are clearly not comfortable with. “I was hiding in the moonlight/When you read me like a road sign.” While it may sound like a lack of risk-taking, it more comes off as they know what they do well and they play it up. Mixing the delicate unsureness of the lyrics with the playful, intertwining guitar riffs makes for a secret yearning that cuts right through to the heart with the smallest, most painless blade. The combination of the singers on certain songs, such as the opener ‘Avenue,’ and the more brooding ‘Bugs’ add that level of camaraderie you’re always crossing your fingers to run into in the basement of some West Philly DIY house. The lax harmonization reels you in.
This traditionally-set up indie rock quartet shows off their prowess with tracks like ‘Running,’ ‘Memory Lane,’ ‘Dayscreen,’ and ‘Walking (Airplane Mode).’ ‘Running’ offers a hot little groove accented with some sharp hi-hats, navigating a back-and-forth pull of four on the floor beats and dreamy, drifting chords. The chorus “I wanna get by/I wanna survive/I wanna get high” is simple and relatable, offering a chance to sing along if you were so inclined. ‘Memory Lane’ offers a warm, jangly R.E.M. type layering of guitars matched with a voice clearly older than the body it is coming out of, but not in a way necessarily pretentious. I don’t know if this singer really has been through any emotional turmoil, but his voice could croon a lie to me and I’d likely believe it. You’ll have to trust that that says more about the music than it does me. There’s a bit of apathy there hiding the hurt. The percussion on the album does go in and out of notice, but the lack of close-miking and compression on this song in particular lends itself to a buttery ease that seems very on-trend with Dweller’s style.
Some little strikes of dissonance and looseness scattered neatly through the album provide a relief from the uptight formula that we’ve come to associate with so much of indie rock. Dweller takes it back to the pre-pop melding in that way. You can hear it on the track ‘Dayscreen,’ the instrumental intro of which calls to mind the halls of your worst years in middle or high school, and how simultaneously better and shittier than everyone you felt. There is this grunge-esque rumbling edge, the overdrive increasing, and the vocals have an air of the slightest emo tinge (which, hey, it’s Philadelphia, where would we be without it?) By the end, you may find yourself crashing along to those power chords.
A song like ‘Bugs’ makes you appreciate the art of album curation. It is darker, and the light gang vocals and reminder of the creepy-crawlies that keep you secret company put you in that darker place you weren’t expecting to go. Maybe you were a little scared to venture when you started out on the beachy lilts of the beginning of the album, but you’re ready now. You’ve been prepared. Dweller doesn’t toss you in empty-handed. You find you’ve come full-circle with ‘Walking (Airplane Mode).’ This song offers a comfortable return to the bright, blue sky-road trip sounds introduced in the beginning of the album. Lightly plucked, clear chords illustrate this scene with a sense of calm motion. A few minutes in and you’re pulled to get lost in an arrangement of delay, finally granted release with some excitedly overdriven guitar.
Overall, Dweller brings back an appreciation for the art of the album itself and does justice to their indie rock and folk inspirations. If they sound as good live as they do on their album, they’ve got some good years ahead of them.
- A strong, noticeable movement with respect to the format of the album
- A reliable, comfortable tone
- Tracks for the easy and tracks for the rough
- At least two lyrics referencing cigarettes – prone to be made fun of
- Repetitive at its very worst
- The production can be slightly uneven