Jeans Wilder Totally (Everloving)
The lo-fi sound has come a long way during the past two decades. In the late '80s and early '90s, pioneers of homemade music depended on guitars and fourtrack tape recorders. Today, bedroom artists are equipped with Microkorgs and GarageBand (and, yes, some of them strum guitars, too). Fundamentally, though, the lo-fi ethos has stayed the same—demos aren't just demos; they're the finished product.
That lo-fi spirit is alive and well on Totally, the second full-length album from Jeans Wilder mastermind Andrew Caddick. Though Totally is Caddick's most polished effort to date, it's still undoubtedly homey. Guided mainly by looped beats and Caddick's sulking, noncommittal vocals, the record's 11 tracks don't sound like fully realized songs so much as sketchy little mood-pieces conjured up on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
There are some great moments on Totally. In "Blue Dream," the utterly sublime album opener, the sound of waves crash in one ear and a bonfire crackles in the other as a sustained synth leads the listener through a calming meditation session—a perfect example of musique concrète-gone-pop if there ever was one. And "Gravity Bong," a breezy love song that doubles as an ode to the stoner's most powerful tool, infuses The Ronettes' now-ubiquitous "Be My Baby" beat with big low-end and wet reverb.
If the album had more tracks like these, it might've been a masterwork of bong-friendly good vibes. Unfortunately, Caddick also tosses in failed experiments that probably should've just stayed on his hard drive. Take the downright annoying "Sunroof," for example—over some laid-back acoustic guitar and blown-out vocals, he applies a jarringly out-of-place chorus of loud handclaps. Way to harsh the listener's mellow, dude.
Ultimately, that's what makes Totally totally frustrating. Despite all the good stuff—like the glimmering, bittersweet guitars of "Slow Burn" and the Johnny Cash-meets- Lou Barlow slacker-balladry of "Limeade"—it feels like Caddick exported everything to mp3 and sent the mix off to the label without taking the time to flesh out his ideas.
Of course, it's not like he needs to spend hours crafting Beatles-level hooks; much of his appeal lies in his laid-back, offhanded approach. But when lo-fi music just sounds lazy, the listener stops caring, too.
Jeans Wilder plays at Tin Can Ale House on Wednesday, June 27.