Review Summary: Hi-fi hipster muzak to relax/study to while wearing a bucket hat.
It’s a testament to Peripheral Vision’s strengths that the album blew my socks off when I heard it, even though I’m way too old for its target demographic of “moody middle-America teenager.” It displayed the power of a band driven by a singular mood (in this case, wistful angst) and how that mood can be harnessed to cohesive effect in making a great album.
The flip side is that subsequent work revealed the wobbly foundations that Turnover concealed on Peripheral Vision. Good Nature was the sound of a band that had gotten fat and happy. While it’s certainly unbecoming to draw upon teenage angst well into your twenties (and beyond), the lackadaisical hackey-sack vibe of Good Nature was the disappointing sound of a band deprived of its emotional libido.
These trends continue on Altogether, where Turnover laudably try to chart a new direction by drawing in influences from new wave and even R&B. Unfortunately, the resulting album sounds like elevator music for hipsters. (For an example of an indie rock album that successfully incorporated R&B and soul influences, we suggest you try Wild Nothing’s Life Of Pause instead.) It’s agonizing to hear a band that was so earnest just two albums ago sound so detached and disinterested in their own music, especially when they have it in them to do so much better than this.
That’s not to say that the record is without any redeeming value. “Plant Sugar” is the best track on the album, with some tight, bouncy guitar leads rattling around a song that throbs with the energy lacking elsewhere. And on “Still In Motion,” if you can endure a prologue that’s the aural equivalent of Austin Getz sitting on a giant beanbag smoking a joint, the song develops into something worthwhile, which captures some of the trappings of Peripheral Vision, if not exactly the soul of it.
“Much After Feeling” is the sound of a band that’s dying to create a hit song, and it’s not a bad attempt at something resembling new wave, with some strong melodies and chorus reminiscent of Good Nature’s few highlights. It’s enough to get you excited for the rest of the album, but unfortunately there’s little worthwhile until “Plant Sugar” toward the album’s end.
“Parties” has some of the worst lyrics Turnover has produced, despite being almost musically interesting. “Number On The Gate” has a bit of the bouncy energy of recent Wild Nothing, but it’s not really enough to elevate the album’s midsection, in which various tidbits of jazzy smoothness, neon soul, and other influences float ephemerally across uninteresting songs by a band that sounds tired of itself. The bland chorus of “Valley Of The Moon” exemplifies this, sounding like it could the theme for a small-batch winery run by Captured Tracks employees in their off hours. When catchy, memorable hooks emerge, like in parts of “No Reply,” it’s a mostly a sad reminder of how Turnover effortlessly crafted this kind of music just five years ago.
What Altogether makes painfully evident is that throwing a few disparate genre influences into a blender is not sufficient to propel a band that doesn’t sound like it cares anymore. If Turnover could get themselves feeling sad, angry, or some other emotion more intense than "chilling out," it would be a tremendous improvement over the neon-soaked haze of indifference pervading their work for the last three years. For now, you’re advised to add a few album highlights to your playlist of choice, and discard the rest.