Review Summary: Water from Your Eyes flirts with greatness, but abruptly ends their journey a few feet before.
The Chicago-formed duo, Water from Your Eyes, has been releasing material since 2016, but in 2023 they’ve finally hit their big break. With a Best New Music score from Pitchfork, its own Wikipedia article, and visibility outside of the local Brooklyn scene (where the band has been based for some time,) Everyone’s Crushed has given them a place on the map.
Rachel Brown’s lethargic vocals aren’t an accident. They give the band the apathetic vibe that they’re aiming for. “True Life” is the tracklist’s clear highlight and this is certainly helped by Rachel’s too-cool-to-care monotone singing. Conversely, these vocals are at their worst when Rachel actually tries to be expressive and hit notes, rather than sing-talk. This gives the impression that a colorless approach to voice may be by necessity rather than a choice. It’s a double-edged sword of limitation that shines the more that’s held back.
Some of the lyrics leave a lot to be desired. Even though it sounds like Rachel is pouring their heart out on “14”, the lyrics are so vague that it’s difficult to connect them to any real human experience. Maybe that could be considered mysterious and buttoned up in the right context, but here it just reads as underdeveloped. This lack of development seeps into various aspects of the album to the point of thematic recurrence. Maybe that’s why the closer, “Buy My Product”, opens with the line “There are no happy endings. There are only things that happen. Buy my product.” You can’t say that they’re not self-aware.
Nate Amos provides most of the instrumentation. Rough guitar clips, meaty bass parts, jittery drums, and plenty of distortion, are all organized into loops. String samples, vocal filters, and cowbells are drizzled into the beats to keep things colorful. Aesthetically, it aligns itself as industrial-tinged post-punk with tiny glimpses of somber pop. So many songs here sound amazing for their first 30 seconds. Unfortunately, after that, the grooves don’t lead anywhere and abruptly end before an expected big climax. Sure, some small progressions are thrown in, but there are few bridges, no significant key changes, and no surprises in the second half of these songs. “True Life” stands out positively again as a song packed with changes and has the closest to a proper ending.
Despite only having a runtime of 31 minutes and 25 seconds, Water from Your Eyes’ latest effort, Everyone’s Crushed, feels significantly shorter. Based on trippy and sometimes aggressive loops, it’s easy to get lost in each song. It’s sort of rock that you can sort of dance to while sort of caring about what they're doing -sort of. Maybe modern digital apathy is what’s in, but if they cared a bit more, this could’ve been an amazing album.
Album highlights: “True Life”, “Buy My Product”