Review Summary: Winona Forever make shyness unusually tactile.
On their second album, 2019’s Feelgood
, Vancouver-or-is-it-Montreal quartet Winona Forever perfect a woozy, romantic formula for guitar music elaborated upon most notably by the Australian Tame Impala and Montreal’s Mac DeMarco. In the case of DeMarco especially and Winona Forever as well, this essentially means updating Steely Dan for the modern age, layering smarmy, slickly jazzy chords atop each other to generate both warmth and a sense of music-school complexity. The sonic delivery system for these tender hunks of melody tends toward the compressed (especially the drums) and queasy (especially the telltale bent strings of the electric guitar), which gives the music a sense of both sophistication and limited means.
, though perhaps formulaic in some definition or other, is an unusually pleasant and expertly crafted rendition of post-DeMarco guitar-centric indie rock. “Heads or Tails,” the addicting second track, demonstrates Winona Forever’s bona fides: the loping chord progression never blows you away, but it builds impressively into a chorus just as much about absence as presence (and with an insane pitch bend to introduce it the second time ‘round). “Keep Kool,” just as dense with enjoyable flourishes of jazzy songwriting and lo-fi production, makes shyness unusually tactile through its dynamic washes of cymbal and Rowan Webster-Shaw’s kinda Albarn-as-Gorillaz-ish exhale: “Tryna keep my cool around you,” he murmurs, and we somehow cognize both the fruits of his efforts and the nerves he labors to keep covered up.
feels good all the way through, for the consistency of its almost uncannily smooth songwriting and for the intriguing balance of passion and, yes, coolness projected by the band’s tight performance style and their jazzy construction of tune and hook. Feelgood
, as such, elevates itself above the pack of post-chillwave indie rock albums to which it will inevitably be compared, and becomes very much its own thing, in great part due to its capacity to engage—its own thing, in other words, because it’s righteous just how good it is.