Certain records practically demand to be played during specific times. For example, The Beach Boys’ early albums are the epitome of summertime music whereas gritty New York hip-hop feels wrong in any context other than freezing winter nights.
For Philadelphia shoegazers Nothing, their debut record “Guilty of Everything” will be a record that receives lots of rotations from me on introspective and dreary rainy nights.
Nothing plays a brand of shoegaze that simultaneously stands out from, and yet harkens back to, genre pioneers like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. The band blends ubiquitous genre tropes such as fuzzy distorted guitar tones and obscured vocals with their hardcore punk roots and a slight post-punk tinge to create a sound and atmosphere all their own.
Musically, the band is incredibly dynamic and switch from dreamy and melancholy drones to pummeling climaxes of noise very fluidly, often doing this several times within one song. Opener “Hymn to the Pillory” is a fine example of this dynamic range, with its quiet hazy beginning leading into crushingly huge verses with pummeling drums and guitars.
In addition to this dynamic range, the band also has knack for writing chord progressions and melodies that echo back to 1990’s alternative rock yet are uniquely original. This allows for a sense of nostalgia that is present throughout the album, yet does not make you want to put on an older band instead.
Nothing also manages to stay musically diverse throughout “Guilty of Everything.” Songs such as “Bent Nail” and “Get Well” meld the band’s shoegaze sound with their punk roots and are the most energetic songs on the album.
In other places on the album, the band chooses to take a more ethereal route, and songs like “Beat Around the Bush” and “Somersault” are content to remain mostly shapeless waves of droning guitars and vocals held together by the band’s strong rhythm section.
The album is coherent and unified despite these differences in musical style and mood due to Nothing’s consistently dark and nostalgic atmosphere and the band’s ability to contort their influences to fit their distorted and dreamy style.
A potential issue that some listeners who are not familiar with the shoegaze genre might face with “Guilty of Everything” is that, like many albums in the genre, the vocals are not very prominent and the lyrics might be hard to catch as a result.
Vocalist Domenic Palermo’s vocals often amount to little more than a melodious whisper that is hidden within the droning waves of the music. This vocal decision pays off for the band though, as
the lush nature of Palermo’s voice adds to the hazy and dreamlike atmosphere of the album.
As for the lyrics, once understood they are rewarding. Through cryptic yet beautiful imagery, Palermo muses on love, nostalgia and isolation through a tender yet distrusting view of the world. This is evident as he expresses a heartbreaking desire for escape through his lyrics on “Get Well” where he laments, “there’s gotta be a way to escape from the rain, but I can’t find it.”
“Guilty of Everything” is an album that masterfully toes the line between old ideas and new ones while maintaining its own voice.
For rainy nights that demand escape, Nothing’s debut is a stellar getaway that manages to balance ethereal soundscapes of lush drones with powerful choruses and memorable melodies.