Arlie’s debut ‘Wait’ — an invigorating start
Matthew Kellenberg | Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Arlie, the band, came together on Vanderbilt campus in 2016. Their early singles “big fat mouth” and “didya think” gained traction on Spotify’s curated indie playlists. And now, to much anticipation, the band has released its first EP. They call it “Wait.”
There’s something very “Vampire Weekend” about Arlie’s “Wait.” A band of recent college graduates releasing a debut project both technically mature and unabashedly youthful. Yet, where Vampire Weekend revels in its own Ivy League preppiness, Arlie projects a more playful, summery image of young adulthood. The result is an album that alludes just as much to The Beatles and The Beach Boys as it does to Arlie’s contemporary indie counterparts.
Arlie kicks off “Wait” with “big fat mouth,” the band’s first single released in early 2017. The production of “big fat mouth” brought Arlie together as a band, and here, in the band’s first EP, it is a fitting introduction. The single exhibits Arlie’s quasi-psychedelic roots, their meticulous production and their knack for pop songwriting.
Next on the record is “barcelona boots,” a track that gradually ascends from the dreamscape of “big fat mouth” to new, electrifying peaks. As synths buzz and kick drums beat, lead singer Nathaniel Banks tests the heights of his vocal register and sends the track into a euphoric haze. Arlie must know just how good their minimalist chorus (“Do ya? Do ya? Do ya? Do ya?”) sounds, yet the band regularly pulls away from it to inject fresh instrumentation and vocals.
“Too long,” in comparison, juxtaposes the band’s carefree bedroom pop sound with some of the album’s most thoughtful lyrics. “Wasn’t this supposed to be fun?” the song begins. The opening line is a self-aware poke at a record that is, seemingly, supposed to be fun. Moreover, the song’s chorus — “It’s been too long / I need to hear your sweet voice again / Your sweet voice again” — evokes a longing that fills the gaps between each refrain.
Sadly, “water damage” boasts neither the buzz of “barcelona boots” nor the emotional depth of “too long.” “Water damage” comes off as a grittier, but no more thrilling, emulation of “big fat mouth.” Ultimately, the record’s fourth track is Arlie’s first forgettable release.
“Didya think,” on the other hand, is a standalone track on the EP. Arlie’s second single, “didya think” features a pared-down indie rock sound that the band never expands upon in “Wait.” Fans of “didya think” might be disappointed by Arlie’s artistic direction; nevertheless, the song proves the band’s rock proficiency should they change direction in their next release.
“Wait” ends with “tossing and turning,” a perplexing closing track. “Tossing and turning” begins with a faux-tropical beat, seemingly lifted from a beach-themed Mario game. The song’s muffled, generally-incomprehensible lyrics provide little more insight into the band’s intentions. It is encouraging to see a band like Arlie unafraid to experiment in its developmental stages, but one can only hope “tossing and turning” remains a novelty item in Arlie’s discography.
It will be interesting to watch how Arlie matures as a band in the coming years. A band like Arlie’s can only preserve its “college band” image for so long, but for Arlie, that shouldn’t be a problem. This new band is evidently comprised of talented musicians with active imaginations; “Wait” is just a hint of that. Arlie’s best work, one can expect, is yet to come.
Label: Atlantic Records
Favorite Tracks: “barcelona boots,” “too long,” “didya think”
If you like: Generationals, Vampire Weekend, The Beatles
Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5