'Rock' Music Round Up - Tearjerker's Faded and Froth's Duress

Musical genres die all the time.

Off the top of my head, punk, hip-hop, and rock ‘n roll have all been pronounced dead at different times throughout their respective existences—often the declaration comes from musicians working within the genres themselves.

None of those genres are ‘dead,’ but music itself, what we want out of music, and what we actually get out of music are all constantly changing and evolving throughout time.

I don’t listen to as much ‘guitar driven’ music as I once did—I think, at some point, I either became burned out on it, or a majority of it just ceased to be interesting to me. The ‘indie rock’ bubble more or less peaked somewhere around 2009 or 2010, and then burst shortly there after—I mean, there are times when I turn on the public radio station broadcasting out of the Twin Cities, and the music that I hear—it makes me understand what Thom Yorke meant when he uttered the line, “It buzzes like a fridge.”

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t compelling music being made within guitar driven genres now, it just means that it’s harder to find something worth your time—and most of the time, there are more compelling things happening that aren’t solely based around two guitars with a little bit of reverb on them, a fuzzy bass, and sharp sounding drums.


I was going to begin this portion of the review by saying that four years is a long time to wait between albums, but in going back and revisiting the piece I wrote in 2015 regarding the last full-length release from the hazy Canadian trio Tearjerker, I literally said the same thing—only then it was in reference to the time that had elapsed between their 2011 effort Rare, and its proper follow up, Stay Wild.

For a band that is capable of making so much beautiful, complicated noise, Tearjerker are also good at remaining incredibly quiet—specifically in the time between albums. The group resurfaced briefly with an EP in 2016, but since then, I had heard nothing from them—and with the case of extremely underground and independent outfits (like Tearjerker), that much time passing without any kind of update often has me wondering if the band in question is ‘still a thing.’

Faded, the band’s woozy and despondent new full-length, answers that question—Tearjerker is still a thing, and they’ve returned with an even more densely layered, atmospheric sound—building off of what they’ve been working toward since their inception over a decade ago on the ramshackle (and now deleted) Slouching.

While Stay Wild was based heavily in the band’s already established aesthetic, Faded finds the trio working within a much more robust, dynamic soundscape, and it also finds them in a much more pensive, somber place.

There’s an overwhelming sense of, not so much ‘sadness,’ as soon as Faded begins, but a very palpable state of feeling dejected—“Standing on the corner in the pouring rain,” the album’s first song, “New Boy,” begins. “Waiting for a ride but it never came.”

The thing about Tearjerker, and it has always been the thing about Tearjerker, is that the vocals, already delivered in a spidery thin way by vocalist Micah Bonte-Gelok, are just absolutely buried in an already dense mix. So, as anticipated, it can be a challenge, at times, to hear what, exactly, he’s singing—but the phrases that do stand out throughout the course of Faded are fucking bleak.

Live by yourself, you gotta live with yourself,” Bonte-Gelok sings on the album’s second track, “Growing Up. “If you live alone—you’re gonna be alone.” If that weren’t stark enough, the song’s ‘refrain,’ as it were, is even starker: “This is growing up—no one’s showing up. This is old, and it’s getting older.”

The album’s titular track is, perhaps, the darkest of them all—a short stanza of lyrics, followed by a mantra-like, one line refrain:

All of these feelings—everything lost in time
How are you dealing? How can you say you’re fine?
I feel like I’m not my best
I look like I need some rest…

I guess I’ll just get fucking faded

Originally, at the end of 2011, I had discovered Tearjerker because I was browsing the genre tag ‘shoegaze’ on Bandcamp—that was how I came across their just released LP Rare. However, I don’t know if Tearjerker is ‘shoegaze’ in a traditional sense—like in a My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive kind of way—or even a more modern comparison, like Brief Candles or Tears Run Rings.

There are elements, sure—but there are a lot of other elements, as well—it’s hazy and woozy enough to be ‘dream pop,’ but there are a lot of times, especially on Faded, where Tearjerker could easily be called ‘downer rock’; there’s The lyrics, certainly, help with that kind of classification. Call it what you want—but there are two hallmarks of a Tearjerker album and both of those are very present on Faded. The first of which is, lyrically, they aren’t a verse/chorus/verse kind of band. If you’re lucky, you get one verse, and one chorus, and that’s about it—there is a lot repetition, but it’s not monotonous—in fact, it becomes hypnotic—used to draw you further into the complexities of the way the song is constructed musically.

The other hallmark is the band’s ability to craft a ‘pop’ song.

Even with as bleak of an outlook you will find within the lyrics throughout Faded, a bulk of those are sung against something incredibly catchy—“Growing Up” is a great example. Slow burning in the beginning, the song shimmers brightly by the time it reaches its refrain, creating a slight distraction (and contrast) from the darkness of the lyrical content.

Tearjerker, even by waiting four years in between full-length efforts, continue to make the kind of challenging, defying music that not a lot of other artists, or bands, are making at this time—difficult to classify, it pushes the idea of a ‘rock band’ forward into thoughtful, complicated places, that are, at times, reminiscent of a more daring time for ‘alternative music’ (the mid to late 1990s) and Faded challenges the idea of what a ‘rock record’ should sound like in 2019—taking its listener into thoughtful, complicated places that are still accessible, and will linger long after the album’s concluded.


In what I could only call an album firmly rooted in a post-Sparklehorse environment of sound diversification, I encountered Duress, the fourth album from the Los Angeles band Froth, thanks to one of the myriad ways I hear about new music. Following the music websites I regularly check, and scouring all avenues of social media for something new to listen to, there is a ‘new releases’ thread in an internet forum that I am a member of.

Described sonically as being similar to the defunct Canadian art-rock outfit Women, with vocals similar to Elliott Smith (a bit of a stretch but I can see it at times), Duress, at least from a production standpoint, is one of the most meticulously put together albums I have heard in a long time, and structurally, it begins as what could easily be called an ‘indie rock’ record, but that’s before it slowly grows more and more experimental and insular as it progresses.

There are a lot of echoes throughout Duress, whether intentional or not—echoes of Hebronix—what wound up being more or less a one-off project from Daniel Blumberg, the former frontman of the indie rock outfit Yuck; echoes of what was always intended to be a one-off project—Lusk, a revolving door collective of Los Angeles musicians, experimenting with psychedelic pop music for one glorious, bizarre album in 1997; echoes of Autolux, and as Duress continues toward its conclusion, echoes of the early 2010 ‘dream pop’ artists like Wild Nothing, and at times, the once maligned genre Chillwave.

Needless to say, throughout the album’s 10 tracks, and intentional 41:14 running time, there is a lot happening, and a lot of methodically constructed layers to both unpack, and lose yourself in.

The thing about Froth that I found with even a small amount of research, is that four albums in, as a band, they don’t take themselves seriously—something you could maybe glean from the song title “John Peel Slowly.” The project originated with a group of friends who wanted to start a band, but nobody was very proficient, or even very capable, at their respective instruments. This is surprising, considering how complicated, at times, Duress winds up coming across, though this may also be due to the fact that Froth’s de facto leader, Joo-Joo Ashworth, opts to work with a different assemblage of players with each Froth outing.

Despite having a sense of humor—both about the music, and the band itself, Ashworth and his players this time around (Cameron Allen and Jeremy Katz) may be taking things a little more seriously, or at least focusing a little more when compared to the band’s earlier days. Working with producer Courtney Gavin, Duress is, by all accounts, a ‘headphone record’—the kind of labored over collection of songs that need to be listened to as intently, and as closely as possible.

Duress opens with its most accessible, ‘rock’-oriented material right out of the gate, then, as it progresses, almost effortlessly turns on itself, becoming more and more experimental and daring, shifting genres and stylistic elements, right down to the very final moment.

Both “Laurel” and “Catalog” are spilling over with crisp sounding percussion and crunchy, distorted guitar chords—while “Dialogue” dials it back a bit on the energy level, and becomes the most melodic sounding of the opening three moments. From there, Froth steer things into more of a post-rock territory, with the mostly instrumental, unrelenting “a2,” which features some interesting atmospheric noises and warbles throughout, while “Department Head,” finds the band working within a very glitchy, ominous sounding setting—the guitar progression set against the skittering drum programming is very hypnotic, and is reminiscent of Neon Golden-era Notwist in its ability to blend organic sounds with things that are slightly colder to the touch.

Buried very deep in Duress’ second half is what is probably the album’s most exciting moment—“Xvaños” has more in line, sonically speaking, with the first half of the album. Structured around a steady tambourine and very, very sharp, precise hits from the drum kit, musically, it owes a lot to the post-OK Computer world of daring and bombastic ‘alternative rock,’ and if there’s any song on Duress that sums of Froth’s ever changing aesthetic, it’s this one—it’s an album that both reaches for gigantic heights due to the scale of its production values, all while managing to maintain a very claustrophobic feeling that surrounds the entire record.

From a sequencing standpoint, Duress seems to play its hand almost too soon with its level of energy, and by the end—and this is perhaps intentional by the band—the pacing slows with its final two tracks, one of which is aptly named “Slow Chamber,” the song that manages to sound like 2009 never ended, with its effected but moderately playful guitar work, and chintzy sounding drum machine keeping time. There’s a slow simmering haze that covers both it, as well as Duress’ final piece, “Syndrome,” which in an interview regarding the record, Ashworth describes audaciously as ‘J. Dilla meets My Bloody Valentine,’ a collision of sorts that I can kind of see, but also like the earlier mentioned Elliott Smith and Women comparisons, I can also not see.

“Syndrome” is a dirge to end the album on—the drum machine skittering is very, very slow, and until the layers of guitar cacophony arrive near the final third, it has ness to do with My Bloody Valentine, and more to do with Pitchfork-approved dream pop in the year 2010; however, it, much like the rest of the record, is a dizzying listen.

Even if as a band, Froth are hesitant to take themselves very seriously, Duress is a serious listen. With a subtle, snarky sense of humor tucked in between the densely arranged layers, it’s a fascinating spiral of both ‘indie’ and ‘alternative’ rock that, on the other end, comes out sounding both familiar yet innovative in the same breath.

Faded is out now as a digital download only from Tearjerker's Bandcamp site; Duress is available as a LP, CD, or digitally, from Wichita.