ARTIST: Total Gaze
RELEASE: We Need More Condos
RELEASE DATE: September 13 2016
RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned
The intelligently and humorously named We Need More Condos is the debut album from Minnesota’s own Total Gaze, a band who sport the term post-shoegaze… Which is interesting both ways; whether you believe it to be a genre or not… But it’s getting off topic to debate genres and sub-genres and how many pedals you need to qualify as a specific type of band; the album evokes a lot of different genres however, including post-punk, shoegaze, ambient and dream rock, just to name a few. Total Gaze juggle these sounds into an impressive and tightly knit type of musical odyssey that sounds a lot let less clean than the average ‘modern shoegaze’ album; bordering on what some would call ‘garage’ and touching on the realms of the whimsically dirty musical genre known as ‘lo-fi’.
We Need More Condos begins with ‘Solid Gold’ which embodies more of the bands gutter sound than its core shoegaze sound. Noisy, unfiltered guitars are coupled with percussive-heavy drums and a low-key bass tone to create a neat, albeit slight, garage rock tune. The influence of shoegaze and post-punk seeps in on the second half of the track, with the song maintaining its garage undertones while embracing an alternative style of guitar riff. An interlude (one of three on the album) features some nice cricket noises but serves no true purpose. One of the greatest tracks on the album is the lo-fi, amazing ‘Don’t Ask’ which remains brilliant in its simplicity. The song utilizes the bands previous garage guitar sound with a fantastically downbeat shoegaze inspired tune. The chorus, in particular, should be praised for its simple breakdown style of song writing and drumming; drawing a fantastic and easily accessible line in the sand between the sounds of shoegaze and the rough, crunchy punk sound. ‘Facing Inward’ plays out in a similar fashion; this time the band sound more up tempo with shaking maraca percussion and brighter guitar sounds. The vocals display influence from no-wave New York yelling and screaming, purposefully distanced from the rest of the mix in a way that does nothing but favours for the type of music the band strut.
‘Interlude 2’ sits warmly between ‘Facing Inward’ and the genius ‘On Fire’, which furthers the band sound. One particular fantastic piece of song writing and vocal delivery is the ‘oh wo, oh wo, oh, wo wo!’ which leads into easily the best chorus and outro on the entire album. This tight sound is perhaps the closest the band get too what you would call ‘post-shoegaze’ with its obvious sound blending at a very downtempo point. Couple this with the sketchy, murmured lyrics and vocals that are still stationed underneath the distorted guitars and rattling drums. Halfway through the song I thought the band had turned the direction of the sound around against themselves, but this interlude style passage of music that sits before one of the chorus’s suits the entire song with a few more listens. ‘Interlude 3’ plays out as an airy-FX filled conversation with a voice drowned in reverb and radio static. It is probably the only Interlude that really and truly alters the context of the album when listened to it in its entirety. A post-punk anthem ‘Sauna Sweet’ follows in a cleaner, much more modern sounding way. While this song may not be quite as compelling as others, it showcases some fantastic performances and features a neat guitar solo/ riff in the second half of the song. Similarly the vocals reach a shaky/louder style that seemed more drowned out by instruments on previous tracks. ‘Television’ opens with an indie style pattern of guitar riff followed by drum beats; this is however drowned out by a fully-fledged piece of shoegaze instrumentation. While it sets up some nice instrumentation and a perhaps more colourful sound than some of the previous ‘heavier’ tracks, ‘Television’ never really fully showcases the band’s sound and song writing skill to its full extent as many of the other tracks do. And while it is not a bad song by any means it’s position on the album and its contextual weight (comparing it to the bands other songs) means that ‘Television’ doesn’t shape up to the heights of the majority of the album.
We Need More Condos is refreshing without seeming avant-garde, fun without seeming childish and intellectual without ever coming across as pretentious. Ultimately there are a couple of ways to listen to the album. One, you can listen to it without any context; instead just for pure listening and interest. This way is rewarding and ultimately shows off and flaunts the bands greatest strengths while simultaneously travelling from track to track. The second, perhaps deeper, way of listening to We Need More Condos is the contextual and conceptual way. This entails asking what ‘modern’ style shoegaze sounds like; the answer being quite different to that of the sound of Total Gaze. And while this album is by no means the most experimentally-history advancing piece of shoegaze music to present itself for a modern audience, it is one that should be appreciated and applauded. So with the clean crisp sound of shoegaze adding to the contextual side of We Need More Condos, the album can be easily listened to as a step away from clichés and distant, echoed sounds that at times borderline completely on ambient music for other bands. Of course, We Need More Condos will not be for all audiences, and with the aforementioned ‘second way’ of listening to consider, it also will not be for all shoegaze lovers. At times the desperate and distanced style of vocals will sound too punk-ish and garage for some listeners, while the guitars and musical arrangements may be enough for others to steer away from the band.
We Need More Condos is, however (albeit not for all) a recommended listen. The sounds and songs fit well together and pan out from the pure alt-rock/garage sound of ‘Solid Gold’ to the sheer post-punk and dream style tones of songs like ‘On Fire’. The band present a wild and tightly garage blend of the alternative, ‘high’ side of town, and the dreamy gutter; drawing an elegant and talented musical line in the sand. They achieve so through the avenues of performance, production and sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on the Australian heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.