Review Summary: Through pneumatic miasma soundscapes, Herzog has crafted a debut album that is simple enough for anyone to enjoy, yet aurally entrancing and hypnotic.
It seems as if more and more frequently I am unearthing underground indie acts fronted solely by bedroom bound cadres, foisted as full rock bands, carrying with them a sort of nostalgic antiquity tinged with half-handed austerity and worn slacker idioms. It comes as a surprise then that Herzog (artistic vehicle for Nick Tolar) sounds like a long lost indie act as genuine as those before him. Feigned ennui and mastery over several indie rock aesthetics has placed Tolar obliquely as the duke of both nostalgic interpreters and haggard veteran. His influences form a Venn diagram balance, the center of which creates a nonchalant epicness (ala’ Pavement), sound-tracking summer time longing and late night wondering. Speaking of Pavement, the music sprawls as such with minor infractions and cracks upon its sidewalk surface. Despite this, the album still drives forward in a steady path; a path mapping out slacker suburbia with stagnant charm and starry eyed loftiness.
Album opener “Silence”, with its fuzzed-glam wanton stomp, creates a crenelated wall of noise which is quickly deconstructed over the course of the album. Nebulous and introspective, “West Blvd” gently lulls as Tolar assures us, “I will never be more than a dirty punk rocker”
. The song transforms seamlessly from sparse guitar plucking into rolling drum work and heartfelt chord changes, and It’s in this ability to evolve songs seamlessly and effortlessly that exhibits Tolar’s skills the most. Songs such as “Static Shock” (which goes from tropical guitar simmering into Arcade Fire-esc full-forced charge) and “Living Alone” (which near the end of the song eschews bouncy pitch bending for folksy twang) transforms the album into an emotive indie waltz, one irresistibly clever and passionate in its movements.
Half-way through the album though, the oscillating guitar noise and torrential choruses are abruptly traded in for laconic reverie, as if all of a suddenly Tolar has aged from ambitious teen to bested old man. The Fleet Foxes-esc “Abandon Love” and “Steady Hands” manage to sound almost like a completely different album, yet surprisingly, engages the listener just as much as the first half of the album. It’s the album’s final ice drift moments, the druggy and jazzy “Cautiously Optimistic” and “Slowest Romance”, where Tolar manages to wear his heart on his sleeve to much avail. The former goes from lumbering and swaggering balladeering to Crazy Horse-esc fragmented soloing (easily the album’s most beautiful moment), while the latter wanders cavernously in coda-like subtlety.
Where the album’s greatest strength lies in it’s smooth transitions over different genres and tones, it’s surprising that the lyrics can’t claim the same strength. The themes typically range from slacker celebratory (“I dreamed I would be a star, the reality is I play in bars”
), uncompassionate grumbling (“I grew up on the streets of West Boulevard, where life isn’t really all that hard”
), and cringe worthy mythologizing (“The sound of hipsters growing old/We cuddle before we ***”
). To say the least, the same amount of heartfelt color and variety added to the music isn’t shared by the lyrics. It’s really a shame, because this is the kind of album that could become an instant classic if only it allowed the listeners to connect more personally. But I digress, the sounds of summer time dreams running rampant through this album are enough to thaw my seasonally frozen heart. From dawn to dusk and twilight to starlight, “Search”
is the kind of album that comes full circle, finally resting in autumnal placidity. Through pneumatic miasma soundscapes, Herzog has crafted a debut album that is simple enough for anyone to enjoy, yet aurally entrancing and hypnotic. Layers of strong melodies, a variety of styles, and competent technical skills presents Tolar as a potential indie star.