It is not often I hear a record I wish I had recorded myself, but when I first heard Wavves’ self-titled debut late last year, I was immediately jealous. It’s not even that Wavves are something truly spectacular or unique; indeed, what makes Wavves so enjoyable is not all that different from what makes Panda Bear so very affecting: simple, catchy melodies vaguely reminiscent of the Beach Boys washed over with an indiscernible, seemingly infinite, impossible mesh — for Panda Bear, of low-end reverb and open space; for Wavves, of terse, trebly lo-fi distortion. And like Panda Bear, what appears — at least, to the unsuspecting and unlearned listener — to be the work of many, is actually the work of one: San Diego native Nathan Williams.
That he named his sophomore record Wavvves (notice the extra ‘v’) is only further testament to the oddly affecting discomfort of his music; and just as one might strain to discern that third ‘ v,’ one may find the search for a melody under the smearing wash of noise irritating, or even impossible: songs irreducible to their melodies. But don’t be discouraged! The greatest joy in listening to Wavves is in finding that simple, poppy, beachy melody and reconstituting the song anew, resounding with the form that was always already beneath it.
And on Wavvves those melodies are stronger than ever; whereas Wavves was mostly concerned with building teeming textures of dense, wallowing melodies — always tottering as if by a tendential lack of cohesion — its follow-up instead refocuses the project, building songs with melodies that would appear to be lifted from your favorite 90′s pop band if it weren’t for that ever-present noise — this time limited, to be fair, if only slightly — steering your focus away.
Some might argue that what Nathan Williams is doing is something very specific: of a time, of a place, of several distinct points of reference. Some have gone so far as to accord his music a new genre (the silly but not altogether inaccurate terming of ‘beach punk’). Regardless, at this moment, it is exactly what I wish I were recording — but, and perhaps more importantly, exactly what I wish to hear.
Wavvves is released on March 17th on Fat Possum, with a tour beginning Friday night at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco (he’ll reach Dossier territory February 6th, when he plays the Market Hotel in Brooklyn). Click here to read Nathan Williams’ blog, and here to listen to a few of his songs.