ALBUM REVIEW: Numbra by Flatwaves

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WRITTEN BY: Lindsey Hernandez

It’s impossible not to notice the recent revival of underground music in Philadelphia. New bands are popping up every weekend, and it’s creating more pressure than ever to stand out. Flatwaves, signed to Philly-grown Abandon Everything Records, has created their niche. They describe themselves as “garagegaze” which is a unique hybrid of reverb-heavy shoegaze with a psychedelic flare. Leading up to Numbra, their debut album, Flatwaves released three tracks off the record: “Swerve,” “The Sting,” and “Run.” These singles establish a larger-than-life sound and showcase a distinctive comfort in their niche compared to the 2019 EP Listless. Built on the backs of classic bands like my bloody valentine and Swervedriver, Flatwaves refreshes their style with a western influence that makes this album feel fit for Burning Man. 

The opening track “Salad Season” starts by building tension with a commanding riff that floods into a smoother harmony of vocals. They twist a shoegaze staple of echoing vocals to feel as if vultures are circling overhead on a desert afternoon. A similar tone shines through the next three songs which were previously released. “Swerve,” “The Sting,” and “Run” are packed with hypnotic hooks and choruses designed to spin you through the album. Flatwaves made it clear they want these singles to define their style. The first half of the album is structured as an introduction to pull in first-time listeners before the more explorative final five tracks.

 The shortest track, “Mothman”, brings a driving beat that serves as an interlude to the second half of the album. Chanting beats throughout the song create suspense and lure listeners into the final few tracks. Riding off the anticipation built in “Mothman,” “Deadleg” is noticeably more grueling than the rest of the album. It showcases a turmoil of angst that manifests as growling vocals and a pounding beat. It’s undoubtedly intense and features a heavy punk influence that stretches itself from the rest of the record. This theme is carried throughout the next two tracks, “Spire” and “Lowtide,” which have a more distinguishable grunge style. “Cygnus” is an ode to the stars with quavering vocals fit for a slow dance. Pleading lyrics sway the band back and forth into a more polished melody. The typical distortion is noticeably toned down, which the band uses to let their pure talent shine and flex their musical range. Flatwaves closes the album by putting everything on the table with “Floating Light,” which leaves the audience with a lasting impression of their carefully crafted psychedelic wasteland. 

Flatwaves is definitely going to rock the tide in Philly with this album. There’s a slow, hazy undertone throughout all the songs which will make it popular among fans of DIIV. The entire album showcases a cohesive style but allows for each track to stand out. Overall, the record maintains a really skilled level of production for a diy-esque scene and sets the stakes for a debut album even higher. Despite the overcrowding, Flatwaves manages to stand out from the pack with the release of Numbra.

Photo via Abandon Everything Records

*You can catch Flatwaves at the Numbra record release show on 10/27 at Ortlieb’s

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