Album Review: Tears Run Rings - Somewhere (EP)

Six years between albums is a long time—and with little updates provided via the internet, it can leave fans wondering if the band has broken up, or simply faded away into obscurity.

The shoegaze/dream-pop outfit Tears Run Rings released its sophomore album, Distance, in 2010, then after a lengthy period of silence, during which the band spread itself out across both California and Oregon, they slow began reconvening and returned near the end of 2016 with its third, In Surges.

Rather than waiting another half a decade in between releases, Tears Run Rings are, in a sense, continuing the momentum of In Surges, with Somewhere, a new four-song EP; and with only four songs, clocking in at 20 minutes, it really wastes no time getting down to business as the band nearly effortlessly blends together a mix of soaring, mildly dissonant, and moody shoegaze aesthetics with hazy, gauzy, and swooning melodies.

Somewhere snaps to life right out of the gate with the precise, crisply produced, and very sharp sounding drumming of Dwayne Palasek on “Helios Heliadae,” which finds the band sliding into a surprising ‘groove’—I mean, as much as a shoegaze band can find a ‘groove’ in a song, as it’s powered by a driving rhythm, and the interplay between the song’s dueling guitars, as well as the monotone, moderately buried in the mix vocals from one of the band’s two vocalists, Matthew Bice.

The EP’s second track, “Someone, Somewhere,” begins with the icy, distance slither of a drum machine, rippling just underneath the sound of what appears to be the ‘Space’ setting on a Behringer reverb pedal, which gives way to a sharp blast of feedback—both of which clear a path for the sharp percussion to tumble in, along with a steady, heavily effected guitar strum that bounces along. With vocals from bassist Laura Watling, and a slower tempo than its predecessor, “Someone, Somewhere” floats along much more dreamily, save when it kicks into what serves as the song’s refrain, which more or less soars to dramatic heights on the back of a searing guitar chord. Truthfully, it’s a tad bit predictable of when this moment is going to hit, and just how hard it is going to it—like waiting for a bass drop in an EDM track, but even though you know what’s coming, it doesn’t stop the moment from being thrilling and impactful.

A real contrast in comparison to the Somewhere’s first two songs, the second half begins with a much more lively and rollicking song, “Be Still,” which is propelled by explosive bursts of distorted electric guitars, with Bice and Watling sharing vocal duties during the song’s verses. While the band’s canon, as a whole, has taken a more laid back, or at least, a less intrusive approach to song writing, there are moments when things become more cacophonic—this is one of them. Cut from a similar cloth as In Surges’ “Belly Up,” it is not an unsuccessfully executed song by any means, but it is so unalike the songs its paired with on this EP that it arrives sounding a tad bit out of place.

Somewhere concludes with another step back into the dreamy, swooning territory that Tears Run Rings does so well, with “Daylight.” Finding the band, once again, toying with delay and reverb, allowing the dual guitar lines to bounce and shimmer off of one another, as Bice and Watling reunite to share vocal duties on the track—not so much an unceremonious end to the EP, but across the song’s running time, the band manages to practice a huge amount of reserve and restraint. They never let the music get out of hand, or soar too high, or gaze too lowly—really, Watling’s vocals are the only thing that kind of gently coasts above everything else during the refrain.

An exercise in brevity, Somewhere is the kind of release that doesn’t overstay its welcome—it does serve as a way to continue the band’s momentum after a lengthy hiatus, but, along with that, it also serves as a reminder to their fans that Tears Run Rings are still an active outfit—just creating and producing music at their own pace. It is also a gentle reminder about the current crop of shoegaze bands operating in popular music today—I hesitate to call them ‘nu gaze,’ but that I sure a descriptor that gets tossed around. As they have on their previous releases, with Somewhere, Tears Rung Rings wear their influences on their sleeves (Lush and Slowdive come to mind almost immediately) but they are also capable enough of bringing something new and sharp into a homage based sound. 

Somewhere is out now as a digital download or 10" LP from Deep Space Recordings.