A solid debut and an exciting look at the potential of this New York band
Grace Almond
13:08 2nd October 2019

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WIVES comment on the daily anxieties of a generation with a strong debut. In their own words, So Removed aims to “plunge into that void of unknown, a tangle of contemporary dread and optimism”. It’s an album that gives the listener a sense of hope and clarity, and a feeling of legitimacy.

Singing “I couldn’t sleep last week, I had problems. My feet hurt and my ankles swell. I’m pretty sure next week I’ll solve them. Yeah I may get better but I won’t get well," WIVES’ frontman Jay Beach poses a troubling, dark look at the human condition, but also what it means to reject spirituality, in ‘Waving Past Nirvana’. This was the first song the band recorded, with members Jay, Adam Sachs, Andrew Bailey and Alex Crawford forming the group on a whim. The track is a clever take on a feeling of hopelessness, and living life on your own terms, and a fitting first song, setting the tone for the rest of the album.

Prior to forming the band, its members had all been involved, in some way, in the DIY music scene of New York. Their attitude towards experimenting with their sound led to them recording further tracks such as ‘Hideaway’ and ‘The 20 Teens’. So Removed reflects their personal experiences, with Jay referring to it as a “speculative autobiography”. This comes across well, and the album performs as intended.

Stand out tracks like ‘Workin’’ and ‘The 20 Teens’ confront what it means to live and battle everyday life. The cinematic intro to ‘Workin’’ builds suspense, preparing the listener for a comment on working life and the impact of capitalism on working class people. The longest track on the album, it pushes the listener to hear its unapologetic criticisms of modern-day exploitation. ‘The 20 Teens’ is meant as an exploration of the 2010s. It’s more of a positive track than its counterparts, but doesn’t shy away from the running themes of the record. ‘Hit Me Up’ juxtaposes with this, telling the story of an old man navigating a New York he doesn’t recognise. It’s gritty and full of the ramblings of a man who has lost control of his surroundings.

It’s not a perfect debut. There are some near misses with tracks like ‘Sold Out Seatz’ and ‘Hideaway’, the latter of which involves a style all-to-familiar and repeatedly used, moving away from the more individual sounds expressed in the more interesting songs on the album. These tracks don’t seem to have the sort of impact generated by earlier moments. 

However, the final song, ‘The Future Is A Drag’, is an important one – its melancholic melody ties the record together, resolving issues posed by the less impactful moments, re-centring the overarching message. It’s a slow track, and almost sounds like something you’d slow dance to at your high school prom. But it has a playful take on making mistakes and pessimism, with the final few seconds conveying an extraterrestrial 80s sound and an abrupt sonic interruption. It’s a calm ending to an otherwise stirring collection of music.

So Removed is released on 4 October 2019 via City Slang.

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