February 17, 2015

LP: Forth Wanderers - Tough Love

Forth Wanderers carve out their own space with their debut album.

Forth Wanderers first came on my radar in the tunnel vision of one of those late night Bandcamp black holes. It was the first time in awhile that I'd climbed into my loft bed without immediately passing out. It had been just as long since the first listen of a new band sent an immediate jolt up my spine. Nestled among pillows with MacBook aglow, my trigger finger was antsy to continue flipping through band pages. Sleep was imminent and my attention span for each page kept falling further below the one-minute mark. Until, in the same yawn, I pressed play on “Selfish” and my eyes opened to take a wide-awake look at the screen. The fluttering guitar line on “Selfish”— the lead track on Forth Wanderers’ Tough Love— immediately reeled me in.

In those eleven seconds before Ava Trillings’ breathy vocals come in, Forth Wanderers establish a developed ‘sound’. And theirs is an earnestly lush one; as unique as it is familiar. The Montclair, New Jersey band’s amalgam of well-loved components from the last few decades of music remains contrarian enough to buck hackneyed cliques. The bouncy guitar on “Painting of Blue” infuses the lush guitar tone with as much spirit as the occasional elegantly placed dissonant note. The optimistic key changes and bright, bluesy guitar riffs on Tough Love’s title track recall Jenny Lewis’ More Adventurous days while the fade-in on “Fuck” strikes the listener as something like fellow Jersey group Real Estate's “Fake Blues”. While some of their tracks reference their predecessors, every song’s dynamic arrangement is all Forth Wanderers’ own.

A great strength of Tough Love lies in its balance of opposites. This synergy is especially apparent in Ava’s lyrics, which create a contradictory zone for her audience to occupy; a cozy space for the listener to find their personal lives in. Singing of the struggle between intent and action, Ava accents her confusion with twisting notes and a brush of nasally doubt. Perhaps a product of the band’s split-brain songwriting, something about Ava’s dry, lilting vocal melodies at first seemed discordant with the polished yet emotive instrumentation, written by Ben Guterl, blooming underneath. The difference between the two elements gives Forth Wanderers a powerful energy —  the kind that makes you perk up and take another look at what’s going on. Where Ben pulls and polishes references from the canon, Ava riffs on the American incarnation of twee music ala Frankie Cosmos and Girlpool. It’s the perfect configuration of the current moment in music. Regardless of its stamp on musical history, the dynamic between these two New Jersey teens resulted in a powerful yet floating album that I haven’t stopped playing since I sleepily tumbled across it some months ago.


Listen to Forth Wanderers on bandcamp

Katie Capri keeps trying to quit writing but just can’t seem to stay away. She has written about music for places like Impose, The Miscreant, Heartbreaking Bravery and now the lovely THE LE SIGH . She’ll give you a killer back rub if you’ll listen to her talk about the absurdity of life.