Review Summary: Treading delightfully lightly
Back in 2017, Rare
absolutely shattered my world. Sure, we’re talking about the world of an ignorant teenager here, but it impacted me and my existence to a great degree nonetheless. The first album showcasing ex-hardcore outfit Hundredth reinventing themselves as dreamy indie rockers seemed tailor-made for me and my love for the heavier side of shoegaze, eventually turning into the soundtrack of one of the happiest, most carefree periods of my life. While these memories of positive change have undeniably impacted my view of the record, I will still defend its musicianship to death to this very day. Few bands capture the specific kind of abrasive, ethereal sound quite like Hundredth did. From a distorted breakdown in its dreamy lead single to an expansive, post-punk inspired closer with some heavenly keys: it’s simply an incredible record.
Nostalgia aside, however, the announcement of Somewhere Nowhere
, the second full-length display of the reincarnated Hundredth, came with a lot of initial disappointment. For starters, a quarter of the album consists of last year’s summer singles, removing a fair bit of excitement about the novelty of the record, in spite of most of these pre-released tracks being rather excellent. Secondly, lead single ‘Bottle it Up’ showcases a turn away from my beloved Rare
’s abrasive gaze sound (oh no!) in favour of a slick, 80s inspired indie pop aesthetic. While not entirely surprising considering the band’s flirtations with synthwave on the Ultrare
remixes, these factors tempered my expectations. Yet, somewhat ironically, this initial apprehension towards Somewhere Nowhere
helped me appreciate the album all the more, because, all expectations aside: it’s a pretty great next step for the band.
is a record that fully bathes in its aesthetic. To an even greater extent than previously, it sees the band prioritising textures and sensations over substance. While this does require a certain mindset to fully appreciate the record, it makes for a batch of songs filled with smooth synths, catchy choruses and an undeniably warm, bubbly feeling. The opener and title track is a glitchy affair, mostly reliant on its foundation of a cut-up drum beat and Chadwick Johnson’s ever-improving, confident vocal chops, building up to a chorus merely consisting of the repeated lyrics “Go somewhere / It’s nowhere”. As stated by the musician himself, the words simply came to him while listening to the instrumentals, but instead of feeling meaningless or suffering from this relative lack of meaning and substance, it makes for some extremely smooth-sounding passages. Similarly, the more shoegaze-heavy, Rare
-esque track ‘Cauterize’ thrives off a meaty bassline besides its repeated, reverbed-to-hell chorus that manages to accentuate the song’s ethereal spirit. Its panned bridge of “Go left / Go right” may be a tad tongue-in-cheek, but it’s easily forgiven due to its surprisingly effective nature and highly competent songwriting.
Thankfully there are plenty of moments where Hundredth inject a bit more energy into the songs too, as opposed to the rather delightfully lazy aesthetic that functions as the main framework keeping the record together. ‘Iridescent’s chorus, for example, is one of the most uplifting slices of hazy dream pop of the year, as sugary sweet as it is dynamic. ‘Why’ sees the band embracing its more unorthodox leanings to a wonderful extent; a pulsating beat propels the track forward as Johnson lays down some of his most gorgeous and memorable vocal melodies. Besides this, it showcases Sam Pura’s consistently excellent production job, as he manages to perfectly emphasise Somewhere Nowhere
’s laid back nature. The consistent static on top of the vocals works surprisingly well, as it makes the clearer moments all the more eloquent. As such, the full-on dance cut ‘End up Alone’ truly pops, showcasing Hundredth’s ability to succeed beyond the realm of shoegaze.
Yet, as many good moments as Somewhere Nowhere
encompasses, it functions more as a collection of songs rather than a fully realised album. This is not necessarily an issue, as it both requires and induces a pleasantly relaxed space of mind, yet, at fourteen songs and 52 minutes, the record occasionally overstays its welcome. ‘Leave Yourself’, for example, falls relatively flat as neither its verses nor its chorus manage to go anywhere interesting. Moreover, the record has the dangerous potential to fall into homogeneity, especially to ears that aren’t properly locked in the mood for some chilled out, hazy indie pop. A few more risks and doubling down on the experimental sections would have benefitted these songs, and given the album the ability to feel more like a cohesive unit. In spite of this, it should be noted the record is perfectly able to keep itself upright through a wide array of soothing melodies and catchy rhythms in its current state.
Perhaps it’s best to view Hundredth’s second attempt at a second album as a stepping stone of sorts. If Rare
provided the foundations and confidence necessary for the band to feel reinvigorated, Somewhere Nowhere
sees them exploring these new grounds while still treading somewhat carefully. If future projects are able to expand on the glitchy ideas implemented here and truly seek the boundaries of where Hundredth can take their sound, we are in for some truly excellent music. Until then, this is a fantastic record nonetheless, expertly capable of tapping into sensations of ultimate relaxation while remaining danceable all the way through, if only somewhat hindered by its full dedication to achieving this very aesthetic.