Artist: Wicked Walls
Album: Wicked Walls
Release Date: April 8, 2014 (Parasol)
Buzz Factor: 4.5/5
Caleb Means returns with Wicked Walls’s self-titled debut after his time with New Ruins. With a combination of heavy alternative and chilling harmonies, Means takes a shift from the softcore scene of CU.
The opening track “Daydream” allows Wicked Walls to set a platform differentiated from New Ruins. Like many of the other songs on the album, “Daydream” alludes to a period in the mid-1990s during the peak of grunge. A sense of heavy melancholy and yearning for spiritual forgiveness are evident in the lyrics. The lyrical reference to religious sin in particular is among one of the most interesting in the album: “Holy mouths won’t ask you to forgive/Some righteous kneel before Him/It’s always cold in here.” Whether the song was meant to portray a pastoral journey or not, “Daydream” reasserts Means’s knack for capturing the human truth in his writing.
The pattern of an existential quest continues in “Kin.” Following in the dense, grunge pattern of the album, the track really sets itself from the rest as a result of its harmonies. Lindsay Barr’s soft voice complements the darker ambiance of the song without distracting from the central theme of the song. With such a hypnotizing sound, it can be easy to resist the urge to analyze the lyrics; however, the lyrics only add to theme of angst the album exudes. In particular, the lyrics, “One step after the other/Blinded by your hope/Rest at the place where you kneel/I’m always feeling longing.” The track’s gloomy atmosphere continues to reiterate an intangible yearning for closure.
Throughout the album there’s an evident dichotomy between sounds. The predominant sounds are heavy rock and early shoegaze. At times, albums that shift between genres tend to lose the cohesiveness and flow of their album, but the shift in tone accommodates the mood of Wicked Walls. The shift allowed for the shoegaze-tinged “Behind the Glass” and “Grapevines” to set themselves apart from the louder songs on the album – in particular, “Grapevines.” While the track resurfaces the early sound of Slowdive, the lyrics are what ultimately makes the album. The album hints to a spiritual journey of forgiveness and solitude with possible references to biblical motifs. The beginning of the track addresses a somber attitude and continues to do so until the closing verse: “A coma away from being lost and tired/I have destroyed the day/All my fruit has seemed to rot.”
Wicked Walls’s self-titled album differentiates them from the sound typically associated with Champaign, despite being made by a native of the town. Wicked Walls is a spectrum of an album that narrates the complexities of soul searching. Its haunting sound and mysterious lyrics leave the listener questioning his or her own existential quest. The beauty of an album is that upon listening to it, it breaks into the darkest chambers of the listener’s psyche and allows him to empathize with the angst of the musician and Wicked Walls’s debut album captures just that.