Review Summary: Confronting the past head-on.
With or without faith, there’s no definite solution to figuring out personal dilemmas in a flash. There’s an uncertainty bred deep into the human condition be it an individual religious or atheistic—an uncertainty of self, of the future, of bygone errors that pester throughout the twilight, and whatever else that the mind dredges up from the borders of existentialism. These wonderings forged the bedrock of Stranger Here
, yet Minneapolis collective Weathered still appear as though they remain caught somewhere between comprehending their situation and collapsing into a heap. The despondent lyricism of the group’s debut effort was occasionally buried underneath apathetic vocals that invited tepid instrumentation, but it has managed to permeate through the sound emitted by the band, transferring between discs as a snowballing baggage cart tied around the waist. What emerges from this is an increasingly atmospheric approach as the quartet continues to contemplate the steps they’ve taken in life, including every screech of the cart as its dragged in their wake, or any other instance of human failing that becomes stubbornly internalized. The duration of sophomore record Everything All at Once
is a struggle manifested into a variety of forms; there’s no longer a template to abide by as witnessed previously. In attempting to make sense of themselves, the midwestern crew have undergone a transformation, injecting biting rock passages alongside softer indie numbers, each foray buttressed by a sort of grunge-esque swagger that allows the band’s words to be driven home. Whether inquiries are answered or not, this much appears true: Weathered have advanced into an exciting new chapter.
Any lethargic sections that could be pointed to on their initial album are mostly diminished in their presence. What helps most in this regard is the band’s aforementioned concern for crafting a discernible setting in each track, utilizing the textures of their instruments in a more creative manner, planting the seeds of a mood that doesn’t depend upon unwavering detachment. Second number “Chasing Me” is the ideal slow-burner to demonstrate this stylistic shift, emphasizing an adherence to a more post-rock structuring that relies on soulful timbres and poignant crescendos. The song begins in an alternative, acoustic-led manner that bounces along leisurely with soothing singing, the distinctive gravely tone of the bass in the background reinforcing the winding melody that wouldn’t be alien to a Head North number. Proceedings decompose into stray piano strikes as the percussion gradually increases in volume, the group gradually moving into an explosive climax punctuated by roaring guitars and the thunderous keys. Succeeding entry “Safe Travels” goes down the avenue a step further to Barely Civil waters; the second half of the tune becomes less of an arrangement and more of a jam session. Following a twangy melody and powerful refrain, the intensity is augmented at the behest of anthemic vocals and the rising guitars, a solo bursting out from the crowd to memorably conclude the song’s progression. In each instance, the audience is able to connect to whatever emotion Weathered is attempting to put to the disc. For the purposes of the reflective prose of “Chasing Me,” the acoustic beginning is dripping with nostalgia as the narrator admits their poor choices while young, which have only been magnified with age—a sensation the melancholic piano effectively cements. Then, on “Safe Travels,” the runaway guitar melody pairs off with the speaker’s desire to run from trouble, realizing the ugliness around them and how powerless they are at stopping it. These used to be lost in translation on Stranger Here
, but they now ring loud and clear with ease.
While the band excels at these pieces, they’re not reticent to delve into other introspective admissions or societal critiques. It does wonders to display the full breadth of the sound Weathered wishes to convey, juggling anger, sarcasm, and a variety of other attitudes depending upon what a track requires. Starting at the onset of “Ghost Tape #10,” Everything All at Once
dives fathoms below the surface of skin, the formerly somber guitars adorning a shadowy coat of paint to match the temperament. This particular creation directs attention outward to society, critiquing how reliant persons have become on the opinions of others and expectations, all of which are sang out almost sardonically next to a bombastic lead. The cart trailing behind Weathered screeches again, forcing a return to their personal sphere and the issues that plague it during “Dark Joy.” An ominous ambiance drifts above the tune from the abrasive string strumming, its foreboding call marched to the frontlines by the authoritative drumming as it crashes down upon the listener. Vocal harmonies intertwine to impose an extra weight upon the back of the audience, permitting the lyrics to obtain greater strength in their defeatist glory. Acting as a perfect compliment is the more up-tempo foray encountered in “In This World.” Whereas prior numbers flirted with unbridled aggression, the band shows no restraint here, feasting off of the energy of the conclusion of “Dark Joy” to slither into a rocking tune with a suitably hostile chorus to reckon with. Gluing these separate moments together is a seamless flow that links thoughts between tracks, never once allowing for a jarring transition to be felt. Instrumental motifs and their corresponding emotional messages are consistently appropriate, rising and receding throughout the duration of the album to match the similarly fluctuating senses depicted in the lyricism.
The subtleties of the record are where it truly shines. Though the sophomore work is full of passages where the band opts to flex their muscles, never does it become overbearing. Consequently, Weathered have improved their songwriting noticeably; few tracks induce a sense of being throwaway ideas or filler. All elements combined together equal an experience that is tinged with religious imagery, but one that remains deeply personal in a manner than can be universally understood. The epidemic of self-doubt populates the words of vocalist Justin Heib, making for a heavy load that groans across the 39-minute runtime, narratives weaving tales that are either Heib’s own or ones he has observed. That baggage becomes his own, as in his musings during “Safe Travels,” reflecting upon a husband and wife he met for the first time in months, only to realize she had bruises over her body—an abuse of innocence that has Heib spiraling out of an ideal vision he has for the world. On single “Quick Tempered,” the struggle is entirely internal as Justin admonishes himself for his actions when he was younger, resigning himself to dwelling on the past as the guitars swell into a resounding pinnacle. Each adventure features all contributing members in their full capacity as they add on their talents. The patient development of the latter track places the post-rock at the center, the percussion quietly guiding proceedings until it ramps up for Heib as he belts out the finale, his strong baritone maintaining its footing with commendable support. Nowhere else, however, does the group expose themselves to solemnity to the extent “Final Form” exhibits. Stripped down to light thrumming, Justin and co. are without a catchy riff or refrain to seek shelter behind, leaving unclothed lyrics that depict a decaying friendship. It’s this emotion that prompts Heib to engage in a suicidal escapade in “I Will Not Go” before managing to calm himself, gaining peace where only a widening depression rested. This journey is spoken genuinely through the voice of the singer and given color by the instruments, cementing an odyssey that relates to all episodes of failing or stress.
To an extent, the influence of Manchester Orchestra still hangs over what Weathered as accomplished. Their strides are certainly enough to override most complaints; the midwestern quartet have successfully evaded the shortcomings that could be discussed in Stranger Here
. Deficiencies in compositional ability have been eliminated over the two-year gap spent writing Everything All it Once
–a fact that becomes evident upon listening to the tunes rolled out for the album. There is a definite identity in the separate songs that are arranged for the effort, with a memorable attribute attached to whichever entry the audience passes into, be it the honesty of Heib’s pen or the excellent atmosphere that buttresses the heavy emotions. In the eyes of himself and of those around him, Justin traverses from one extreme to the next, gazing upon others and his own life under a microscope that spares no prisoners. It may lack the overt nature of contemporaries, but where Weathered excel is not in the theatrical. The Minneapolis assemblage shines in laying down to tape every creak of the baggage cart; every deep breath taken to bear the toll of the past as it stays latched on; and the cathartic victory of discarding that onerous wagon, never once rushing back to its presence save for the occasional backwards glance. Few things are as thrilling as embarking upon an expressive trek represented in such clarity. Alongside the added bonus of a musical group obviously evolving in all regards, Weathered’s latest is the sort of compelling emo release sorely missing this stretch—and possibly among the year’s best.