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STEREO EMBERS ALBUM PREVIEW – “Melt” from Shoegaze Dreampoppers Whimsical, with a Track-By-Track Breakdown from the Band

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Perhaps, coming from a place like Dyer, Indiana, a town that would ‘simply’ be a suburb of Chicago were it not a few inches over the state line from Illinois, the duo that make up Whimsical, Krissy Vanderwoude and Neil Burkdoll, were naturally drawn to making music that straddles borders. Whether that be the case or not, the extent to which the pair excel at merging the sheet wave dynamics of shoegaze at its most coruscating with the tender invincibility of dream pop is something of a marvel. Their third album in the last five years, the band would seem to be – very successfully – making up for lost time, having formed originally in 1997 with a debut that emerged in 2000. Again, whatever the case it’s fine with us, as in their current run they keep going from strength to strength with what appears an effortless élan, a progression made all the more convincingly clear with today’s appearance of Melt on Shelflife Records. From the sudden force blast-off “Rewind” that opens the album with a pound and a whoosh, the indie-goes-feral and sweet of “Gravity,” “Take All of Me”‘s beautiful, easily-bruised pop shimmer that suggests the Cocteaus taking a slow dive into Pale Saints’ swimming pool (and is one of this listener’s album highlights), “Crash and Burn” somehow managing to mix the hurly-burly with the purely gorgeous,  the absolutely sumptuous “Like A Dream” to the crepuscular gleam of “Feather” that closes the record, Melt is, in a word, a triumph, one that wins over both heart and mind with a blissfully sonic assault on both. In its crucial gist, though, what permeates, what stands out, is that most essential of ingredients (especially, it could be argued, when one traffics in the often monolithic shoegaze realm), melody. Most apparent, as it should be, in Vanderwoude’s vocals, there’s not a track on here that doesn’t also carry the lilt of melody through its every chordal and rhythmic element, making for an almost utopian subtext in terms of sound. As music obsessives, we all have an almost embarrassing abundance of riches in which to lose ourselves these days (we are, in the best way possible, up to our ears in music), but if we’re being honest few fulfill that promise of immersion with the grace and power Whimsical brings to their every note. [pick up Melt here, and be sure to scroll down for the track-by-track background as you listen to this unwavering gem of a record]


1. Rewind – It’s funny how hearing an old song idea with fresh ears can really turn things around.  Rewind was an unused song idea that was originally considered to be the B side of our Gravity 7”.  Once we heard the updated finished version though, it was obvious that we had to have it on the new album.  It really captured the energy of what the perfect Whimsical song should be while also retaining the beauty that we are constantly chasing.  The song Float was quickly written and recorded as the B side for the 7” and Rewind became the album opener for our fourth album Melt.  The lyrics are inspired by the desire to turn back the hands of time and rewind to a place when times were better and start over again with a fresh start.

2. Gravity – Gravity was definitely influenced by The Head on the Door era The Cure and ran through the “Whimsical” song filter.  It’s always a struggle to make an upbeat song sound fun without being too happy, but Gravity does it well.  Sounding almost like three separate songs in one, the first half is made up of traditional verses and choruses that evolve into a psychedelic middle section that builds and builds upon itself until its climax, eventually ending with a soft acoustic dreamscape.  If truth be told, Gravity was the song that got us signed to Shelflife Records and gave us the excitement to finish another album.  Lyrics for this song were written about the feelings that come along with being inspired by someone who makes you feel like you’re floating and being swept away by their magic.

3. Take All of Me – Every once in awhile, a song idea will start from the bass and not just from the guitar.  While messing around on the bass, the original idea almost turned into a Pop Punk song, but then the idea came for the drums to be played half time with additional layers of distorted bass to be used to fill out the stereo spectrum.  It was fun to let the guitars take a backseat and let the bass guitar be the main driving force for a change.  Add some synth pads and a few guitar flourishes and you’re almost there. Lyrical inspiration for this one came from the concept of being cautiously optimistic while wanting to open yourself up to new beginnings, trying to trust someone with your heart, yet still feeling a bit guarded after having it broken in the past.

4. Melting Hearts – The album title Melt was directly taken from this song and was originally inspired by these small heart shaped icicles that Krissy would see on her walks around town.  I’m not sure if we ever found the reason for the heart shaped ice but we did get a song and album title out of her seeing them.  We always try to have a good balance of upbeat distorted songs and slower clean sounding songs and Melting Hearts was created to make sure that balance is kept.  As mentioned above, the lyrics for this song were initially inspired by these frozen hearts that Krissy was seeing on her walks, that were melting from the bright sun, even though the outside temperature was very cold.  Using that imagery as an analogy she wrote about the concept of two people who have “frozen hearts” that are guarded.  As they get to know one another, they begin to warm up to each other, bring their walls down and melt together (fall in love).

5. Crash and Burn – As the songwriting for Melt was coming to an end, it became obvious that an upbeat and energetic song was needed to balance out the overall feel of the album.  The first impression sounds simple enough, but beneath the song’s exterior lies many layers of sound that wouldn’t be misplaced on an album like Siamese Dream.  Crash and Burn sounds as equally 2022 as it does 1993 and there’s an excitement there that we’ve tried to capture on all of our albums.  This song is about the rollercoaster of emotions that can sometimes come along with a relationship, especially if things are moving too fast.  It highlights how quickly things can plummet from high to low, especially if there is miscommunication and confusion, which leads to uncertainty about what’s next.

6. Just a Dream – Musically, Just a Dream sits somewhere between Disintegration era The Cure and You’d Prefer an Astronaut era Hum.  A simple and sweet verse breaks into an exploding chorus that really lets our Pop sensibilities shine through without being too obvious.  It’s not impossible to picture Just a Dream being played along side early songs by The Sundays or The Cranberries and that was sort of the point.  Lyrically this one is about unrequited love and the confusion that comes along with feeling like there was once a balanced, equal and reciprocal love, but now you’re left wondering if it was all just a dream.

7. Searching- Searching was written in exactly the same way as Solace was from our last album.  A very simple guitar riff played through a huge wall of reverb that really sets the mood for the rest of the song.  Searching is a bit of a slow burn but if given time, a beautiful landscape grows out of the shadows that really captures Whimsical with our heads in the clouds. Lyrically this is inspired from the place of someone who is feeling very lost, scared, and alone while searching for meaning and purpose for their life.

8. Quicksand – Quicksand is the “oddball” on our new album Melt, but it’s also the song we are probably most excited about.  Sounding mostly electronic, Quicksand is made from our sampled guitars that have been manipulated and repurposed in a new and interesting way.  We were able to expand our sonic palette and try new things with what makes up a Whimsical song.  Initially we were worried that Quicksand wouldn’t fit alongside our other songs, but once we realized that our melodies and Krissy’s heartfelt lyrics were in place, we knew that we had created something special and any concerns we had faded away.  We’ve been waiting a long time for people to finally hear Quicksand and we hope they are as excited about it as we are.  Lyrically this one is about the feeling of being stuck in a toxic situation while desperately wanting to pull yourself out of what feels like unrelenting quicksand.  As it continues to pull you under and keep you in the same place, you feel suffocated and unable to breathe because of the emotional weight of it all.

9. Feather – This was the last song finished for the album and originally we had thought Quicksand would end the album, but for whatever reason, when we heard the finished version of Feather, we knew we had to close out the album with it.  The intro was very inspired by Ionia era Lycia and the idea was to write a very floaty song that would contrast with our more upbeat and overdriven songs.  There’s something about Feather that really sounds like an ending and we couldn’t be happier with how it finishes out our album.  After the sonic side step that is Quicksand, it was nice to sort of bring the album back around to what we do best musically.  This song is about the confusion that comes along with being involved with a person who is drifting away and no longer feels emotionally available, open or reachable.