Review Summary: If indie rock is dead, Gleemer is determined to resurrect it.
Fort Collins, Colorado is a great place to be if you like biking, hiking, and doing other outdoors activities, or (somewhat paradoxically) enjoy culinary indulgence in one of the highest restaurant-per-capita cities in the United States. It’s not exactly the first place that comes to mind when one considers thick, fuzzy indie rock that blends shoegaze, midwest emo, and dream pop into a syncretistic whole. Yet, far from the coastal centers of trendy music, Colorado’s Gleemer crafted an incredibly immersive and evocative album that reinterprets rustic western landscapes and their cozy suburbs as a setting for earnest, intimate anecdotes of young adult anxiety.
What Gleemer accomplishes so naturally is a blend of emo and shoegaze that successfully evades the negative indulgences of both genres. Even if Gleemer doesn’t quite pack the lyrical wallop of, say, The Hotelier, their seamless integration of thick, shoegaze fuzz and swaying Fender Jazzmaster textures more than compensates on the confident, deliberate “Gauze.” The outstanding track defines the album every bit as much as “Never Meant” on American Football’s 1999 LP, and even though they’re sonically dissimilar, they’re fueled by the same emotional current.
Gleemer is a band that could easily wear out their goodwill if they were limited to moody, pensive songs, but “Heater” offers an immediate counterpoint to Gauze. A jangly track that is immediately upbeat and appealing, the transition would be jarring if both songs weren’t so well-written, reflecting frontman Corey Coffman’s songwriting proficiency. Through the following tracks, Gleemer’s thick atmospherics always accentuate the songcraft, and the contrast of murky fuzz and college-rock shimmer give Moving Away a range surpassing many emo classics.
The album’s first side is a study in contrasts, showing just how skilled Gleemer has become after only a few years of recording music. Alternating waves of roaring distortion and swaying vibrato rule “Lily,” without a doubt the heaviest song on Moving Away. It’s immediately followed by “Cool Back,” an acoustic song with little accompaniment. On a lesser album this would be the low point, but “Cool Back” is the most strikingly vulnerable track, a display of stark emotion evocative of Japanese emo legends Bloodthirsty Butchers, themselves a product of picturesque rustic environs. If Bloodthirsty Butchers and their sadly-departed frontman Hideki Yoshimura were reborn as an American indie rock band, they would probably sound a lot like Gleemer.
But where the Butchers were a meandering group that took their time to build up to an emotional payoff, Gleemer is a razor-sharp blade, their songs tight and concise, packing maximum punch in their three-to-four-minute runtimes. This is exemplified on the 35-minute album’s second half, in which the band offers their best songs yet. “Champ” may be the best track on Moving Away, its sparkling jangle evoking summer melancholy that, like the best emo, effortlessly transports the listener into its pensive heartache. But Gleemer never wallows, as “Trade Up” turns its summery chime to an urgent and restless focus.
“Dragging” and “Long Hair” flow together almost seamlessly, returning to the opening track’s deliberately-paced storytelling: “I spend a lot of time thinking of the way I let my parents down,” Coffman reflects on the former, before the latter closes the album in a deservedly satisfying fashion, as the guitar melodies and Corey’s distinct vocals step in and out of focus. Moving Away is an album that (perhaps because of its brevity) invites the listener to immediately replay it when “Long Hair” comes to an end. Considering that Gleemer’s prior LP Holyland USA was marred by a few too-lengthy songs that tended to meander, the cohesion of Moving Away shows that the band quickly learned their lessons.
Where similar bands succumb to excess, Gleemer thrives, with a tight collection of songs resplendent with the rich atmosphere and imagery of the best emo and shoegaze bands. Excellent musicianship, particularly guitar playing, builds up Moving Away’s songs with strong, memorable melodies, and Corey’s voice is immediately unique and compelling. Special attention should be given to the mixing, which gifts the record with the character of an early nineties indie release, with each instrument nevertheless clear and audible.
Moving Away is the rare album which old-school genre fans will find exciting and gratifying, while also entrancing a new generation of indie rock enthusiasts. If Gleemer continues releasing records of such outstanding quality as Moving Away and its immediate preceding EP, the excellent No Goodbyes, they won’t remain obscure for long, and it’s hard not to hope that Gleemer and artists of similar quality will give indie rock the kick in the pants that the genre most certainly needs in 2017.