Review Summary: Strong foundations to build on.
It’s a rarity in today’s alternative rock scene to hear something that strikes as different. Sure, there are a plethora of ideas floating around, but these ideas only seem to build upon commonplace schools of thought. In a nutshell, alt rock has become a highly derivative mess; an eternal struggle between indie influences and genre requirements that leaves the music flat and disorganized. So, it’s with a certain amount of trepidation that I approach a newcomer to the genre, and it’s a wall that Waypoint will have to traverse with new and fresh ideas.
From the outset, it’s clear that the guitar work is the high point of Waypoint’s sound. In the dark and emotive opener Convinced, Waypoint transition from standard picking to delay-ridden post rock riffage, before polishing it all off with an acoustic-laden finale, and it proves to be a strong indicator of things to come. This variation is important; not only for the band but for us as listeners. It’s that unique element that they can use to distinguish themselves; an oft forgotten idea that contemporaries Make Do and Mend and Title Fight tend to only flirt with. We don’t have to have that sing-a-long chorus or overwrought emotional belting to establish feeling within the song, but rather it can all be done, wordlessly, with songwriting.
This technique is so rare in alternative rock it seems Waypoint hasn’t even realized they’ve struck gold. The sophistication of the songwriting throughout the EP tends to be cruelly buried, almost disastrously so, beneath piles of what many would deem standard ‘expectations’. In particular, the vocalist tends to be the centerpiece of most alt rock bands, and unfortunately Waypoint has made the mistake of trying to emulate this. Why, when you have musicianship this strong and stirring, would you favor one aspect of the music over another? In the end, the band falls victim to this conundrum and sets the vocals on a pedestal, which in turn presents us with a disjointed package.
Frequent shifts in tone and style take Waypoint to the edge of what is expected from the genre, without them ever really pushing the envelope or extending past their comfort zone. Despite this, Hollow Ground is a strong foundation for them to build upon. The dense layering of Let In and the passionate climax of Hollow Ground are proof that the band has the compositional ability to make a name for themselves. Now we just need to see small changes in production before Waypoint can attempt to make their move into the ranks of genre greats Thrice and Thursday, while still establishing themselves as something genuinely different.