“Lavender Town” is the debut full-length album from US-band Dwellings, and without taking away from it as a whole, it could be summarised as lemonade – sweetness masking sour undertones. The sugar is Isaac Wilson’s voice, which is pleasant and technically impressive, and the lemon juice is the lyrical content: “You’re sweet like lemons/That’s sour with hate/This wasn’t your doing/But this is your fate.” Lemonade also happens to be the fourth song (and their 2016 single).
Moving onto genre, some bands don’t appreciate being pigeonholed because it boils their influences, hard work and potential down to a label or two. Genres are the stereotypes of the music industry after all – easy to understand and make assumptions about. Listeners and critics, however, sometimes want that genre information to make sense of what they’re listening to. So purely for background, we’ll stick Dwellings in the post-hardcore, math-rock genres.
Wilson doesn’t waste any time with niceties on the first song, Pink Noise, jumping into screamo from the get-go. The vocal delivery produces a post-hardcore and emo vibe and the precise, hard-hitting guitars and drums conjure Dance Gavin Dance. It’s only two minutes and nine seconds but it feels longer because it’s a belter. Sins As Wonders turns the tables, starting with slow singing and instrumentation before reaching its upbeat trajectory and from there, chugs away in a dreamy sad sonnet.
However, the band seems to settle into their personality more comfortably in the second half of the 10-song album. See It Through really dials up the math rock, filled with complex rhythms, irregular stopping and starting, and odd time signatures used by the likes of The Dillinger Escape Plan. The precise drum strokes and chords don’t take away from the grooviness and it even features some screamo rap. Ordinary Destruction is the most radio-friendly track after Lemonade. It has a nice flow thanks to the choruses and could be described as orange, bouncy and cartoonlike. There’s a bit of male Hayley Williams going on here. Snake Charmer is frantic but that sweet guitar makes frantic okay. The main riff is musical serotonin – it’s the stuff your ears and brain need to hear. Again, the sour lyrics make their presence felt: “To the end of the rope/To the butt of the joke.” And then there’s track nine, Codphish Joe. It feels like the album should stop here. Dwellings have built this energy up and then they drop the final song, A.T.M. (At The Moment), which is the only acoustic track on the record. It’s quite good but some listeners might want to finish on the energy of Joe.
Another soft song is Foreverest. It is both soothing and depressing – something that could feature on a Skins UK soundtrack. The sourness hits the palate again with “You’re colder than a mountain top.” For a track that uses crafty guitar work, odd time signatures and features some of the heaviest screaming, Lemonade is the album’s first radio-friendly tune. The singing, guitars and drums are a sexy combo in this track. It’s really quite delicious. On Color of the Cat Tree, the drums get aggressive and this is the first time we hear Wilson jump into frenzied, screamo rap. The band also manages to bring some of that old-time, whisky bar whimsy that Panic! At The Disco is known for.
“Lavender Town” is multi-layered and might take listeners a few goes to get it right in their head, but those few goes are worth it, as it’s a fantastic first album. So is this debut a cup of lemonade – filled with sweet singing and sour lyrics – or is it just four guys lamenting heartbreak and playing some tunes? Maybe it’s best described as Willy Wonka and the Motherfucking Chocolate Factory – sweet and fantastical with some grown-up themes.
‘Lavender Town’ is out now and you can get your copy HERE.