Unlike some artists who can achieve success with a single release, Wallows had to make an album to show audiences what they really mean. (Illustration by Rinah Kang, Rhode Island School)

Wallows’ Debut Album, ‘Nothing Happens,’ Teases a Wealth of Ingenuity

Dylan Minnette, of ’13 Reason Why’ fame, flexes his musical chops on the band’s wobbly first project.

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Dylan Minnette, of ’13 Reason Why’ fame, flexes his musical chops on the band’s wobbly first project.

Chances are the name Wallows has not escaped your tongue in any conversation about music recently. The band, previously under the name Narwhal, seems to have come out of nowhere, but has already garnered a massive following on Spotify and Apple Music. With their recently released debut album “Nothing Happens” and a slotted performance at this year’s Coachella Festival confirmed, it’s time you get to know the band and the achievements of their debut collection.

Wallows consists of childhood friends who have been at work generating music since 2017: Braeden Lemasters, Cole Preston and Dylan Minnette. If the name Dylan Minnette rings a bell, it’s because he was all the rage in 2017, starring as Clay Jensen in the Selena Gomez-produced show “13 Reasons Why.”  With Minnette’s lead role on the popular show, Wallows often gets dubbed as an off-season hobby for the budding actor, but it is not true.

After releasing a handful of singles and an EP, the band finally has a full-length album on the shelves. “Nothing Happens” was written by the trio and produced by John Congleton. The 11-track LP sets a high precedent for the band to exceed throughout the rest of their promising career. With high energy, youthful content and an exploratory rhythm section, Wallows is a sonically pleasing band to be taken seriously.

Residing in the realm of indie rock, Wallows’ songs often commemorate elapsing time and the tumultuous process of growing into adulthood. In an interview with Billboard, Preston said that “Nothing Happens” is a collection of songs about “growing up and losing your innocence,” as well as, “feeling nostalgic and being scared about what’s coming next.”

“Nothing Happens” varies its tonality from punchy, rebellious vibes in “Scrawny” to a poppy and energetic sound in “Treacherous Doctor.” “Nothing Happens” is bright, attention-seeking and grounded. Here are some of the highlights and low points of the debut album.

1. Album Flow

When listening to the album, I often felt surprised because there was no abrupt stoppage of sound between the songs. This sophisticated fluidity is perhaps what is missing in today’s collections.

Wallows arranged “Nothing Happens” this way on purpose, demonstrating how effortless it is to listen to a full-length album when the correct fades and arrangement of songs are in place.

2. Concentration on Sound Above Lyrics

Not to say their lyricism isn’t insightful, but there is no one line that a song relies on to resonate with the audience. Popular radio music often has one punch line that listeners chant out loud, but “Nothing Happens” steers away from this trend, emphasizing more on the instrumentals and nostalgia factor of ‘80s new wave.

Wallows seems more laser-focused on crafting a staple sound, whereas lyrics were an afterthought in a majority of the songs.

3. Standout Tracks

Lead track and stand out single of the album is “Are You Bored Yet? (feat. Clairo).” Clairo’s vocals are nothing short of impressive and work to accentuate the teenage fantasy, dream-like rhythm section stuffed with heavy keyboard work.

The song is built for indie radio, transporting you to a California highway adventure with the windows rolled down. This song is remarkable, and I can only hope for more Wallows and Clairo collabs in the future.

“Worlds Apart” is a jam that reawakens alternative rock motifs. Woozy and laid-back, this song consists of reverb heavy vocals and a nod-worthy “jam session” toward the end. It is a nice change of pace from the rest of the album, considering its lazy tempo. The lyrics embody a teenage commonality as Sound Digest writes, “Worlds Apart reminisces on a failed relationship, paying homage to the good times but also accepting the longing the heart endures.”

Tongue-in-cheek selective vocabulary with a heavy accompaniment, “Scrawny” is one of the most light-hearted pieces on the album even if its guitar riffs scare you a bit. It’s a fun, punchy song that shifts the band’s twisty, relationship-centric focus to a more celebratory jam. It’s short and direct in its lyrics but gives “Nothing Happens” a surprising change of pace.

Minnette told Atwood Magazine, “The album is fun to listen to I think, but there was a lot of very serious moments and a lot of moments that were heavy. We just thought, let’s have a light, two and a half minute, kind of borderline funny song. It just needed it.” “Scrawny” is an anthem about embracing who you are, even if you don’t fit in and have a weird hairstyle.

4. Clichéd Central Message

It is hard not to write a love song or curse about love in today’s day and age. “Nothing Happens” is all about growing up, falling in love and moving forward when things take a sharp turn. Now, while that makes sense for the young band whose members are 20-somethings, the love theme has been going for a very long time. Wallows can make the songs upbeat, but I had wished for some variety in the central message other than just, “growing up is hard but, you’ll get through it.”

Overall, “Nothing Happens” is an exceptionally well-rounded debut album that ignites the push for popular musicians to drop the obsessive download and streaming number watchdog act and refocus their efforts on making a polished body of work. Wallows is a band that can only go up in both talent and fanbase, and I can’t wait to hear and see what they do next.

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