Valaska: ‘Thing’

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In Thing, Chicago’s Valaska have molded a set of warm, friendly songs to keep the harsh winter at bay. Careful consideration has been placed in each lush, melodic track.

But don’t confuse their acoustic preferences as a sign of simplicity. As with, say, the average Antlers record, no arrangement is overloaded, and there’s plenty of room to breathe. Props to each band member for leaning back when needed, because for these songs, focus on ensemble is key.

Drowsy as the feel may be, there are a lot of cool ideas to be found throughout its nine tracks. Opener “Espejismo” (Spanish for “mirage”) has the same vaguely mystical vibe of Midlake at the height of their minor key-mellotron use, whereas “Re-Animator” is a plinking, meandering War On Drugs song set to the wrong RPM.

The sonic space is no mistake – front to back, this is an album about mid-20s existential blues, one that requires plenty of reflection and pensiveness. On songs like “Fair To Say” and “Wabasha”, there is a quiet determination in needing to strike out somewhere new, a feeling most can relate to. “Ain’t it a shame tryin’ to live the American dream / And you wake up displeased with who you turned out to be?” muses singer Dave Valdez on the bubbly waltz “Epoch”. This record’s themes align neatly to any given Girls episode – Valdez may not be “at peace with 24”, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s still awfully young to feel like all is lost. These are songs that speak to the dissonance between being ready to be the responsible, emotionally sound grown-up you aspire to, and actually arriving at that accomplishment.

Valaska’s lyrics are perfectly fitting puzzle pieces with pop sensibilities, and even when they’re vague or metaphoric, they don’t feel like they’re trying too hard. This is a group of natural writers who feel perfectly comfortable within each verse and chorus. Though his voice isn’t anything special, Valdez knows how to use it: “Somewhere New” is a Dana Swimmer-esque slow burner about the very personal feeling of rejection meant to be impersonal, and the height of Valdez’ emotive howling will stick with you. Each song flows cohesively into the next, and the record never quite gets a chance to rub the sleep out of its eyes. Though not exactly unfamiliar territory for the average indie fan, Thing makes a darn good companion for contemplative Sunday strolls through rainy forests.  Grab yourself a listen to the album, out today.

3/5

Check out our exclusive Thing track-by-track breakdown from Valaska vocalist Dave Valdez below:

1. “Espejismo” – This song is about separating reality from illusion. Everyone has an idea as to what they want their future to be but it’s always blurry in the distance.

2. “Fair to Say” – This song spawned from a conversation with Erik, the guitarist of Author. We were sitting in an empty bar talking about where our lives were headed and the uncertainty of our future. Erik stated “This is the oldest I’ve ever been” and the first lyric of the song was there.

3. “Epoch” – I was going to scrap this song until I showed it to Matt Holmes who insisted on piecing together all the body parts and bringing it to life. The song turned out to be one of our most energetic songs on and off the record.

4. “Common Sense” – I wrote this song while we were on tour supporting Natural Habitat, I had just finished reading The Alchemist which deals heavily with life and finding meaning.

5. “Re-Animator” – Zach Porlier and I recorded everything totally live for this song, afterwards, Matt went in and added all the bells and whistles.

6. “Wabasha” – This song is based off the concept of creative differences.

7. “Somewhere New” – It’s a song about the inevitable. Relationships end and we move on, but there is always surprise in learning this.

8. “Collecting Rocks” – It was the first song written for Thing, not even a month after I had finished tracking Natural Habitat.

9. “Ink” – This was first brought on by reading a Charles Bukowski poem. It’s about the difficulties in turning away, the difficulties in forgetting.

 

Though originally from Virginia, Kelsey recently graduated from the University of Georgia with a cavalcade of neat degrees. She's written for other sites like Wide Open Country, Half Past, Seeing Trees Music, The Cropper, InfUSion Magazine, and Blurt. Kelsey’s greatest weakness is a large bowl of pho, and though she doesn’t know it yet, her friends will soon host a soup intervention for her. In her spare time she enjoys exploring abandoned buildings, crafting dad-humor puns, collecting vintage key chains, writing long lists that utilize the Oxford comma, and acting like Larry David.

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