Secret Space – ‘The Window Room’ Review

Posted: by Riley

Sometimes it takes a special combination to unlock your potential. Sometimes these natural fits are a product of years of hard work and soul-searching. But sometimes it happens so fast you don’t even realize it. Never did a fit feel as natural as that of Toledo space-rock group Secret Space — they’ve even got a fitting name to match. The three-piece – made up of bassist Zach Ruetz, drummer Steven Warstler and guitarist/vocalist Dean Tartaglia – are recent Equal Vision signees and an influential part of an oft-mentioned indie-rock revival in Toledo, Ohio.


Long before there was Secret Space, there were many a Dean Tartaglia project – each one with some unique spark to it, and each one better than the last. There’s always been something special about Dean’s art.  The genre-bouncing experimentalism of his 8-in-8s revealed his exploratory spirit. Remnants of the thumping dark soul of his bass-drum duo Silent Lions still remain in his sonic palette (and continues to inspire others), while the bare-all intimacy of his solo recordings offer a clearer look at Dean’s perspective as a songwriter. Yet never did Dean’s sound and message feel so inherent and unaffected as it does on Secret Space’s debut LP, The Window Room.

Although this is the first full-length we’ve gotten from the band, it already seems to find them toying with their sound and exploring internally. It’s peculiar, really. Every song on this record carves out its own space, and yields something interesting; yet, after just a listen or two, you can identify the Secret Space sound as a listener. The common sonic cues are trudging bass lines, soaring builds, and distinct vocals – usually they’re gentle and controlled, eventually blending into a sea of explosive instrumentation, before ultimately returning to a soulful whisper as the song rings out. But these elements are more-so the glue that holds the songs together – it makes otherwise wildly different songs exist in the same creative breath.

As a result, the heart of The Window Room really manifests itself in the details. Like many great records, and almost all records Will Yip has worked on, it is one comprised of ‘moments’ — the ones you wait for in every song and point out to your friends while listening. Here are a few of my favorites:

When Dean is nearly rapping through most of “PxCz” /

The borderline boyband “I I I” at 1:38 of “I’ve Come Around” /

The weirdly calming moment at 1:35 on “Second Life” /

The anthemic round at the end of “Second Life” (feat. Mat Kerekes) /

The background scream at 2:15 of “Cast Iron” /

“We both know that this is not just a plot to escape the short shot” on “Stars” /

2:02 – 2:28 on “Say What You Will” /

Every bit of sparkling piano on “Suffer In” /

And then there’s all of “Beyond the Display.” Not only is this the closest thing to a ballroom ballad this genre’s ever seen, but it’s also somewhat of a thesis for the LP and one of the most beautiful love songs I’ve ever heard. After a sky-gazing moment of insignificance, Dean is confounded not just by his relative inconsequence, but by the miracle of true love in such a small life. He asks the should-be-age-old question: “how’d you wind up next to me? You were miles beyond the display” 

As you may have learned from our interview with Dean, the record was written in a room in his house made mostly of windows – the window room. This physical aspect of inside-looking-out perspective translates to a narrative one, too, resulting in a larger-than-life, universal hunt for personal answers. Subsequently, Dean spends a lot of time talking about other people on this record, and he searches adamantly for their place in the world, hoping that it can somehow qualify his own. Before you can find what you are, you have to realize what you’re not. It sounds simple, and that’s because it is – but simple answers are hard to find if you don’t know what to ask. The Window Room is about, through isolation and outward reflection, finally asking the right questions.

Score: 8.8

FFO: Third Eye Blind, Jimmy Eat World, Citizen, Brand New
Best Tracks: “Second Life,” “I’ve Come Around,” “Beyond the Display,” “Suffer In”