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Wall - "Untitled" | Album Review

by Jonathan Bannister (@j_utah)

A relationship with a band is a relationship that’s never built on solid ground. No matter how strong a bond you might feel to their music, personnel changes, style changes, or just dissolution can always threaten the warm and fuzzy feelings you have towards a group. The hard fact in the indie world especially is that bands come and go sometimes faster than you would like them to. They spring up, shine bright on a debut album, and then burn out, leaving those who found those first recordings worth listening to wondering what could’ve been and leaving many more to discover the music after they’ve already come and gone. Wall had one of the more talked about debuts last year. They felt like forerunners of the bands taking their cues from the post-punk era along with Protomartyr, Lithics, and DiCaprio. A band that would be talked about for quite some time to come. And yet, here we are talking about Untitled, their newly released first full-length which will also be their last new released full-length. It’s frustrating that a band this good has called it a day, but thankfully they leave us with an album that showcases everything they were great at and an album that is sure to live on as others discover it on the feeds of their friend’s Bandcamp purchases.

Those lucky enough to have caught them live in NYC or SXSW will hear some of the killer songs that were played live that weren’t on their first fantastic EP. The album is a continuation of their sound with refinements and enhancements. It’s a band growing into their sound, becoming fully realized. Wall bloomed almost instantly. Singular in their idea, knowing what they wanted to say. Their topics were timeless (most unfortunately so), their directness refreshing, saying what needs to be said, no sugar coating the worst.

"High Ratings" picks up right where their EP left off. It would feel perfectly at home as the next track after "Last Date". The music sneers while Sam York calls out our need for validation on social media. Itching for those thumbs up and hearts, never satisfied with what we get, always needing more. Wall may have signaled well known sounds but they made them their own. The next track "Shimmer of Fact" changes course, slows things down, gives the parts room to breathe. Something as assured as "(Sacred) Circus" usually comes later in a bands run, unafraid to be melodic and disjointed at the same time. It lures you into a groove like being wooed by something that means you harm, then the rug is pulled out from under you and it’s chaos. 

Their cover of "Charmed Life" (with sax by Pill’s own Ben Jaffe) feels like a Wall original. They take the song and make it their own. "Turn Around" struts down the street, a killer in disguise looking for those who have it coming. The album ends with one of their best, "River Mansion," a late night, hazy, Velvet Underground trance of a song. A song that feels like it’s talking about now. “We built this house on a hill. We built this dream on a hill. The river runs glassy and dark. I’m running through the halls of our dreams. The storm is brewing.” So much has been achieved, but there’s still so much to do.

Ten songs in 30 minutes that act as a cohesive whole. It’s a perfect summation of what York, Vince McClelland, Elizabeth Skadden, and Vanessa Gomez accomplished in such a short time. We are lucky. It’s a fitting close even if it is one that comes too soon.