Smile Politely

A review of Motes’ Crash The Day

It’s a window-down car ride replete with the chirp and croaks of critters at dusk. It’s a thick air before-the-rain porch talk with a friend.  It’s the phenomenon of vapor pressure and saturation pressure becoming the same. Motes’ recent album release Crash The Day, is a swirly, fuzzy, yet hand-tight exploration of sense and experience and it feels like summer. Or at least, late spring, onset summer. It’s an album that, like the coming of a new season, re-instills in you a sense of wonder and level of awareness that  feels ego-killing and hopeful.

Crash The Day is an aqueously textured soundscape of swirly, bending guitars and complex dynamics that leave you somehow feeling both soothed and roused. The buzzy, angular melodies “Silver Pine” and the underwater, alt-country lilt of “Acting Alone” are certainly leveled up, emblematic examples of our dream pop locals. “Salt,” however, starts out unassuming in this regard; opening with a doo-wop feel of a waltz that precipitates into a dynamic strand of snare roll crash that sounds like surf hit shoreline before a storm. The line moves beautifully under the swell of vocals:

When you wade into the water

You’ll find that you’re dazed by the light

But then your eyes will adjust

And the shimmer will settle inside

Call it the ocean, call it a metaphor for community, “Salt” is to the swelled ego a gentle confrontation on belonging to a body of something greater than self. Beyond an appreciation of Motes’ sonic-make up is withal an appreciation of the visually lush, earnest, and elegiac lyrics. Certainly, much of the lyrical content of Crash The Day is ripe for close-reading.

Photo by Veronica Mullen

Crash The Day definitely has many loud, quiet, then loud again moments; and, their ability to hold dichotomous heavy and ethereal sounds at once is magic. “Came To” and “Problem Patron,” however, definitely stand out on the track shelf like two incongruent, yet somehow compatible extracts of Motes’ dialectical tone. “Came To” gives a feeling of a palliative, loud whisper, like when you finally decide to reach out to a loved one who you know is doing something that is bad for them and you don’t want to scare them off but, darn it, you want them to listen. “Problem Patron” is definitely the album’s bottle of short heavy. Clocking in at just under 3 minutes and sounding very reminiscent of the Breeders circa 2008, “Problem Patron,” is a call out to the recurring characters in toxic masculinity history: “She’s gonna write you right out of her history/She’s gonna shine light into your cynical mystery.” In post-punk fashion, it’s one of the more straightforward critically political pieces on the album besides “Choir,” a beautifully discordant, driving piece that explores themes of environmental apathy and existential nihilism. Yes, I’m saying that with the confidence of someone who just turned in a paper about it to their high school English teacher. 

The overall production quality of Crash The Day is the best yet for Motes, thanks probably to a few pedal and percussive toys and, mostly, the engineering and mixing production of Earth Analog Studios. Reading the latest SP interview with Motes, you might have been amazed to learn that Colin Althaus was fresh outta high school with little experience when they put together their last album Keep It In The Dark three years ago. Keep It was great — even earning the top spot on SP’s list that year — but the production quality, especially for what Motes wanted to achieve this time around is even better than before.

Several more pages could follow describing to you what the drums, bass, guitar, or vocals sound like of every song because it’s easy to do with a great album; but, hopefully you’re more interested in listening to the album and indulging in the impressions that it gives you. Even if you didn’t sample some of their songs on their Bandcamp page, the gorgeous, collage album art by Paige Spangler would be an easy tilt if you are considering picking up the album (er downloading it).

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