Dartland is an album, but Dartland is also a place. This is the home in Seattle where Worst Party Ever settled down last year after moving from Sarasota, Florida – as extreme a change of location as it gets in the continental United States – in search of a change of pace. Back in the days when Worst Party Ever was playing stripped down acoustic emo that had more than a little in common with classic Pacific Northwest indie-pop, Andy Schueneman once sang on “Living in Alaska in My spirit ”, so I guess it’s getting closer to that free space in physical space.
Planting your band over 3,000 miles from where they came from is a handy framing device for sonic transformation, but the metamorphosis into a full-fledged rock act under a thick cloud of depression was actually well advanced before the move. . With the here, online EP, released on Valentine’s Day 2020, the focal point of Worst Party Ever has remained Schueneman’s deep and haunting tenor and all his memorable but no-frills turns of phrase – lines like “Stop texting me , I do not want to talk!” and “I’d rather stay indoors smoking weed all day” and “I had slept in my clothes and I’m not really sure they’re mine” which sound like realistic dialogues but are lodge in your brain like hooks. But the EP largely traded lo-fi Elverum strumming for a sparkling wave of drums and guitar. Working with producer Kyle Hoffer, Worst Party Ever converted songs that might have worked well as ballads into resplendent, urgent and melodious rock songs without giving up the band’s signature melancholy.
Schueneman’s lyrics suggest a man who enjoys spending a lot of time at home alone, and his group arrived in Seattle in a year when most people had no choice but to stay indoors for long periods of time. . After nearly two years of living in the era of the pandemic, Worst Party Ever has come out of its home with a debut album that seems to have stuck out in time. Among the painfully online, there have been talks this year about the different eras of emo and how the genre, now seemingly in its fifth wave, is starting to react against the downright copious aesthetic of the Pillars of the Years. 2010 like modern baseball and poise and calm, often incorporating glitchy electronic elements and so on. The worst party ever has none of these. Dartland is not without clever frills – see the ambient synth outro which lands “Provenance” far from its acoustic introduction – but above all this record shoots right in the middle with a sound that could just as easily have come out in 2013 or 1999. That works!
Worst party ever, despite its origins in their Seattle home Dartland in Michigan with Tyler Floyd, a producer who has helped neighboring groups like Dogleg and Greet Death capture remarkably dynamic recordings. For this group, that involved stacking guitar tracks. Dartland is a dense listen – full of both fuzzy and clicking chords, interspersed with both plaintive and gleefully energetic riffs – and it sends that density out at high speed in rapid bursts. None of the 12 tracks on the album hit the three-minute mark, and many don’t even make two. Given the moody mood and heavy arrangements, Dartland is not what i would call a costs listen, but it’s passing before you know it.
Schueneman’s writing fuels this concise approach. He continues to write effective, no-frills lyrics – words that cut straight to the point, delivered straight from the heart. Often times they focus on the Sisyphus quest for renewal – unsurprisingly coming from a group that has transplanted from one corner of the country to another in search of a fresh start – and that constant battle to reveal themselves instead. than to hide in the safety of solitude. “You are in my circle for one night,” he confides very early. He later promises, “In the bathroom light / I won’t hide forever / From all the ghosts in the hall / All the cloudy weather.” There is a constant back and forth between the desire to be known and the urge to withdraw into oneself. “I’ll always listen to you,” he promises on “Natural”, just a few songs after singing, “It’s good to want to talk / But I’m useless, I don’t care at all.”
Dartland never elevates the stakes beyond that kind of interpersonal drama, a solipsism that will alienate you or, if you get a glimpse of yourself in Schueneman’s vignettes, strike you as punchy. When attached to such vibrant and propulsive indie rock, these narratives, though at times austere, can take on a redemptive, even hopeful, quality. This is true even (especially?) When they don’t present a clear resolution for his internal tussle. is rarely Dartland better than “Beautiful Out,” which begins with Schueneman stating, “I’ll stay indoors for the rest of my life” and ends somewhere less resolute: “I don’t want to go out, but it’s nice outside.” There is the faintest glimmer of hope in this recognition that the world beyond your walls might offer something that you cannot find in isolation. And if not, well, at least Schueneman writes great songs there.
Dartland was released digitally on 12/17 and physically on 1/7 via No Sleep, and you can already stream it all below.
Other albums to note this week:
• Roddy Ricch Live life fast
• John Dwyer, Ryan Sawyer, Greg Coates, Wilder Zoby and Andres Renteria Gong Splat
• Nick Cave and Warren Ellis The Snow Panther Goal
• New grass’ Scordatura perforations
• The Sing 2 soundtrack
• Johnny Marr’s Fever Dreams Pt 2 PE