Smile Politely

Review: No Shadow by Nectar

“We can’t run away, so we turn on the light” sings Kamila Glowacki in “Stay,” the opening track on Nectar’s sophomore album No Shadow. “Promise I will stay until it goes away” is repeated with harmonizing backing vocals, almost as if it’s the voice in our heads singing along with us, affirming that we are making the right decision in facing our anxieties head on.

Nectar is made up of singer/guitarist Kamila Glowacki (who also produced the record), drummer Jake Mott, bassist Isabel Skidmore, and guitarist Aaron Shults. The band sounds stronger than ever on the new record, and were even included in The A.V. Club’s May music preview, alongside artists like Kendrick Lamar, Harry Styles, Sharon Van Etten, and other big names. No Shadow is an album filled with themes of anxiety, longing, and familial relationships. At roughly a half hour long, it’s a quick listen, full of punch and distortion, but at times gentle and reflective. The group dropped three singles in promotion of the album — “Routine,” “Scab,” and “Ponytail,” alongside accompanying music videos. Honestly, any song off of this album could have been a single. Each track is strong and unique and hits in its own way.

Some of those hard hitters are tracks like “Routine,” the first single and the one that still gets stuck in my head the most. “Scab” also features a memorable guitar riff alongside some of the most — in my opinion — resonating lyrics on the album. We carry trauma and past experiences with us that we so badly want to rid ourselves of. The problem comes when we prematurely try to “pick it off like a scab.” This only leads to scars. We have to sit with our experiences and tackle them when we are ready, as hard as that may be. It’s a process that can take longer than we want it to. At least, that’s what I took from the song. Like Glowacki sings later on “Lucky” — “ignorance was easy, healing is hard.”

Album cover by Kamila Glowacki.

Tracks like “TMF” as well as “Unusual You” seem to be aimed at a relationship going stale, with lyrics discussing the other person’s lack of compassion and sense of over-confidence taking dominance over the relationship.

“Ponytail” also features some incredible writing. A song about the ever-changing nature of life, and the loss of innocence as we grow older and long to be a kid again. The track builds so wonderfully into a cathartic guitar solo and release of emotions from every member of the band – it’s really something magical and feels like a comforting hand reaching out, letting us know that we are all together in this weird thing called life.

Nectar also introduces elements to the music that we haven’t heard yet from the group. On “Lucky” we get some beautiful background strings under an electric guitar. It’s a quieter moment on the record and comes at a great spot in the tracklist. I’d love to hear more stripped back songs like this in the future.

I highly recommend listening to the album with a solid set of headphones, as there are so many little details that I didn’t pick up on first listen when I heard the record through my phone speakers. I guess you could say that about a lot of records, but No Shadow shines bright in its mixing and engineering from co-producer Andrew Rodriguez. For example, on “Rocket,” I glossed over the backing vocals on my first listen, as well as whatever that whirring sound is panning back and forth. It sounds awesome. While this is punk music, nothing sounds overly harsh and hard on the ears – each instrument perfectly fitting into its respective pocket, mixed beautifully.

No Shadow is incredibly impressive in that it manages to capture a wide array of themes and ideas in an engaging way – nothing ever feels stale, and it never overstays its welcome. It’s ten tracks of bangers, mashed together to create a powerful 30 minutes of punk and pop. I’m excited to see where else this band is headed, and what other tricks they have up their sleeves.

Nectar will be playing a show at Exile on Main Street on Friday, May 20, at 8 p.m. to celebrate the release of the new record. They’ll be playing the album in full, with support from punk/art rock band Soft and Dumb. There is a suggested donation of $5, and merch will be available to purchase as well. The band is also embarking on a summer tour starting in June, which you can find dates for here

Top photo from Nectar’s Facebook page. 

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