It’s not easy to stand out as an L.A. indie band who sing about relationships and insecurity. Of course, Wallows have little to prove about their ability to hold the attention of a crowd—the band’s second LP Tell Me That It’s Over comes ahead of a world tour with a sizable number of dates already sold out, and a platinum-selling single “Are You Bored Yet?” (feat. Clairo) already under their belts from their debut album, 2019’s Nothing Happens. With their sophomore album, Wallows once again flaunt their talent for crafting a dynamic and gripping sound amid their quest to overcome their own anxieties and self-doubts.
Tell Me That It’s Over flows in a way that verges on cinematic, being almost perfectly bookended with rich string arrangements on opener “Hard to Believe” and penultimate track “That’s What I Get.” The bold cello strikes that introduce this album set the tone for the broad range of unexpected sonic influences that make each song distinct and attention-grabbing.
Wallows reach a high point with the LP’s third single “At the End of the Day.” Creeping in with a somber, dark wave-esque electronic beat, glittering synths brighten the track into a bittersweet plea against the fear that even a relationship that’s going well is doomed to fail. The song accomplishes all of this alongside some of Dylan Minnette’s finest vocal work on the album, landing a perfect delicacy on lyrics like, “At first you made me nervous, I could hardly speak / I don’t really think about it anymore / Is that a problem or just something to ignore?”
Going from the ethereal textures of “At the End of the Day” into “Marvelous” is about as jarring as the flow of this album gets. The exuberant latter track, while having plenty of points of interest on the production side, including weaving in the sounds of a chattering crowd to create a lively atmosphere, is the LP’s weakest song. The screeching guitars and high repetition—the chorus makes up about half the song’s two-and-a-half-minute listening time—pushes “Marvelous” just across the border between catchy and tiresome.
This isn’t to say that the trio lack any ability to craft euphoric and memorable pop hits: “Hurts Me” proves once again that they can do this with ease. The track feels reminiscent of early The 1975 in its vocal melody and sunny synths. Lyrically, the song still has the pitch-perfect angst one can expect from Wallows (“Did I give it enough? / What to blame it on now? I know myself better than you do / Part of me is something that you’ll never see”) as they try to reconcile their feelings about a breakup.
Tell Me That It’s Over closes with “Guitar Romantic Search Adventure,” a delicate yet powerful ballad full of nostalgia and regret. Braden Lemasters’ piano-playing shines in the minimalistic production before the song explodes into a moment of cinematic, coming-of-age synths—a quality the band perhaps can’t help but nail with a singer who’s made a name for himself in the current world of teen media.
Throughout the LP, Wallows show an ease in incorporating unexpected sonic textures and multi-genre influences while still remaining immediately recognizable, accomplishing what every band must hope to achieve on their sophomore album. Taking on Ariel Rechtshaid (Vampire Weekend, Haim, Adele) as the album’s producer was a winning move in cementing the band’s place as one of the biggest names on the indie scene today.
Carli Scolforo is a New England journalist and former intern for Paste Magazine. She loves late-night TV and reading celebrity memoirs, and never truly left her emo phase. You can follow her on Twitter @carli_sco.
Watch Wallows’ 2019 Paste Studio session below.