Review Summary: Moving Away's volatile and inconsistent tracklist pairs some of the genre’s shining examples of the decade next to stagnant tunes that begin with an intriguing idea and build nothing of substance.
Shoegaze is a unique genre in that nearly all subpar attempts at it sound exactly the same. I haven’t noticed this phenomenon in any other style of music, and I wouldn’t expect to, as there are so many hilarious ways to fail at songwriting. Bad pop can present itself as either melodramatic, lyrically dreadful, or completely devoid of catchiness. Bad metal is perhaps the most varied and plentiful, ranging from soulless and computerized technicality to the copy-pasted breakdowns and embarrassing false machismo of radio metal and modern metalcore. All bad shoegaze songs I’ve heard commit the same cardinal sin, which is to prioritize texture over melody. Both are equally important to creating a dense and ethereal shoegaze atmosphere, and attempting to cloak a lacking melodic idea within layers of effects is often insufficient to breathe life into a song that was never masterfully written to begin with.
Gleemer’s Moving Away is an anomaly among shoegaze albums, as its volatile and inconsistent tracklist pairs some of the genre’s shining examples of the decade next to stagnant tunes that begin with an intriguing idea and build nothing of substance. The record’s most delightful moments are songwriting triumphs, boasting infectious vocal hooks, crushing and memorable guitar riffs, seismic dynamic shifts, and evoking genuine emotion. For proof, look no further than the record’s opener and by far the band’s most popular track, “Gauze”. To pull the curtains up on their second album, Corey Coffman and company deliver an atmosphere fraught with tension, juxtaposing gorgeous harmonics and lead lines against crushing rhythms and drowned, emotionless vocals. The track’s lyrics, evocative of sweeping summer storms and moments of euphoria Coffman longs to return to, compliment the musical themes in such a way that the listener’s only choice is complete surrender to the power of the arresting melodies, as well as the engrossing sonic embellishments. “Gauze” is an absolute victory of an intro, and had me thrilled to dig deeper into Moving Away’s tracklist.
The importance of momentum in an album’s tracklist cannot be understated. The experience of listening to an entire record front to back is almost wholly dependent on flow, and a musical choice that causes emotional removal from an album’s intended effect can be devastating to its trajectory. Many songs on Moving Away commit the aforementioned cardinal sin of shoegaze, which is to prioritize texture over melody. While the guitar textures on Moving Away are universally impressive, certain songs just aren’t strong enough to be completely carried by them. After the brilliance of “Gauze” and the sunny energy of “Heater”, “Fall Out” is a three hundred pound weight clasped to the ankles of Moving Away’s momentum. The verse melody relies on a single distorted note that is given insane prominence in the mix, and contains none of the deft melodic movement that made the previous two tracks such successes. Other tracks like “Cool Back” and “Trade Up” are pretty but vaporous, with both ideas cutting off suddenly right before they can reach potentially transcendent territory. Not only does Gleemer excessively prioritize texture in these moments, they prioritize only one texture in particular, which knocks the wind out of these songs even further. The saving grace of the record’s second half is the stunning “Champ”, an effort that manages to combine the tension of “Gauze” with the intended beauty and delicacy of “Cool Back” to escort the listener on a soothing, euphoric journey.
The saddest thing about Moving Away not living up to my expectations is all of the stellar moments on it that either disappear too quickly or overstay their welcome and become grating. This record is an incredibly mixed bag and contains some extremely unmemorable songs that stand single file in between what are some of my favorite tracks of the 2010s. When Gleemer phones it in, it’s apparent, and all the more upsetting because of the unbelievable possibilities of what this record could have been. Many of the ideas here stagnate and become nothing more, but when Gleemer strikes gold, there’s truly nothing like it.