Wallows ‘Remote’ EP review : L.A trio still upbeat, more produced on quarantine recording

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Image Courtesy of: Wallows Press Release

The $4.99 EP reached 27 on the iTunes US Albums charts the day of its release.

With daylight saving time stealing the sunlight from the day, summer feels out of reach. But with Wallows’ latest release, “Remote,” listeners will no doubt feel like it’s July again. The upbeat six-song EP from the alternative rockers gives listeners that “summer drive — windows down, music blaring” feeling.

“Remote,” the third EP from the L.A.-based trio, was written and recorded entirely during quarantine, and the process wasn’t easy for the band. But “it was a special project,” singers/guitarists Braeden Lemasters, Dylan Minnette, and drummer Cole Preston said in a press release.

The members sent voice memos over text and spent hours on FaceTime talking about their ideas. While the band made sure to keep the mood of the album as light as possible, trying to pretend that, just for a while, everything was back to normal, they said, “the music wouldn’t have turned out the way it did if not for quarantine.”

“Remote” kicks off with “Virtual Aerobics,” a catchy, uptempo track about how being in love makes everything seem so much newer and brighter. Minnette, known for his role as Clay Jensen in the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” sings lead on the opening track of the EP, which is built around a vintage-sounding piano hook.

While the song still has traces of Wallows’ signature sound — a bass drum backbeat and snare, Minnette and Lemasters’ vocal harmonies — it’s evident with this album’s opening track that the band is going for a whole new sound. “Virtual Aerobics” sounds less experimental than the other tracks on “Remote,” but it still is a shift from Wallows’ previous releases. The group shifts musically on this album by adding the drum machine, increasing their use of synthesizers, and a heavier reliance on electric guitars.

While there is hardly any variation in the song — the verses are almost identical to the choruses — that is where its ability to get stuck in your head comes from. Still, “Virtual Aerobics” is the weakest song on the EP, despite how catchy it may be.

The guitar-heavy second track, “Dig What You Dug,” features Braeden Lemasters singing lead. Lemasters’ higher-pitched vocals contrast against the deep guitar tones. The vocals are mixed and interwoven with multiple layers of guitar tracks, a bold move for the band who haven’t featured this much production on previous albums. The contrast between the layers of guitar and Lemasters’ pitch creates a beautiful blend for easy listening.

The track ends with an upbeat tag featuring a glitching instrumental and a spoken outro saying, “I dig what you dug, and I dug what you dig,” providing listeners with a glimpse of Wallows’ quirky personality.

With scattered synths and drums, and Lemasters’ vocals, comes the third song on “Remote”, “Nobody Gets Me (Like You).” The full and catchy sound may be deceiving, as in an interview with MTV, Lemasters says that the song “was basically done in a day.” It’s a heartwarming tune about having a genuine connection with someone who understands you better than anyone else, that’s sure to have you grooving along to the beat.

The drums are never-ending, and even though the rhythms change and fills are added, the beat continues to stand out throughout the song, reinforcing the head-bopping and toe-tapping nature of the track. The consistent beat compliments the acoustic guitar’s whole notes creating a just-right mix of soft and loud.

Following “Nobody Gets Me Like You” is “Coastlines,” where Minnette’s lead vocals return the listener to his deeper, lower tones. While most of the song is centered around synths and lighter instrumentation, the chorus packs a punch with the electric guitar. With the effects on the guitars and the drums’ hard hits, the chorus adds in a heavier aspect.

“Coastlines” lyrics describe the difficulties relationships face couples are miles apart, a much different subject matter than the band’s usual love songs or summer tunes. However, the instrumentation provides the upbeat vibe that Wallows is known for, even if the lyrics are more somber than the rest of “Remote.”

The EP’s fifth track, “Talk Like That” is filled with bizarre guitar sounds and synth. The song builds up to the bridge, the loudest and most chaotic section with a droning synth. It’s much different than the other sounds on the album. “Talk Like That” may come off as strange, almost too weird, but as the EP is replayed, the song’s bounce becomes irresistible. The quick switch in sound halfway through the song was an interesting touch to the album. It’s a more jumbled song, yet still catchy nonetheless and keeps listeners intrigued.

The standout song on “Remote,” “Wish Me Luck,” is definitely a strong finish. It’s a more flowy sound because of the steady crescendos and decrescendos of the synth and the various effects on Minnette’s voice as he takes lead. Electronic drums, something that usually isn’t a part of Wallows’ sound, is heard throughout the song. It’s a different sound but in the best way. The song’s end was the perfect way to tie off this EP, with two separate vocal tracks from Minnette that work together beautifully, almost as a chaotic peace.

“Remote” was released October 23 by Atlantic Records. It is currently available on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and for purchase on Wallows’ website on CD or vinyl.