Album Review: Equipment – ‘Alt. Account’

Posted: by The Editor

Earlier this year, Equipment released Miracle, a killer EP with a bevy of riffs and clever lyrics that manifest themselves more with each listen. While it didn’t necessarily feel like a statement record, there was certainly something about Mircale that caught your ear and anyone arguing it was the group’s best release yet found themselves on pretty solid ground. That’s what makes their new full-length Alt. Account so stunning—in comparison, Miracle sounds quaint and almost restrained. It was a glimpse of what songwriter Nick Zander and crew could do, but only a glimpse. On Alt. Account, Equipment employs those elements present on Miracle to create something magical.

A semi-concept album about the gaming YouTube channel Zander ran as a child, Alt. Account begins with a clip from back then with childhood Zander stating “sometimes, this game gets a little…frustrating,” before adult Zander and the rest of Equipment blast off into “Hot, Young Doctors.” A tonesetter both lyrically and musically, “Hot, Young Doctors” finds Zander contrasting his days spent fighting with his “acoustic on the couch,” taking “pictures of the cats around the house,” and “listening to records in sweatpants” with his partner’s days “full of hot, young doctors / with their postures correct / trading glances in halls.” Musically, Equipment throw in palm mutes, intricate riffs, and tight drumming that glues everything together even as it seems to be working in opposition to the guitars at different points. 

It’s followed by early single “LO/FO,” definitely the brightest and bounciest track musically, even as Zander delivers lines like “the more I hang around with you, the more I know about art / and what it means, and how to do it right / cause there’s a wrong way, I wish you’d show me how to write” with more than a bit of a sneer. The chorus of “how often do you disinfect your phone / when you talk, talk, talk your shit all the way from home” is sugary and immediate, but Equipment don’t let the song stay in that comfortable pop zone for too long as it ends with a blistering attack of riffs under the lines “Log Out / Fuck Off.” 

“LO/FO” certainly makes sense as a single pick, but by the time “Hollister Henleys” is through, it’s pretty clear that Equipment was saving some heat for the release date. The tune is largely about the in-between stage of your early twenties, with Zander realizing he’s “trapped in nostalgia,” only spending money on things that remind him “of being a kid.” While the layers of electric guitars are a clear draw on the record, the loose acoustic they throw in here adds a natural, analog feeling to the mix while Zander questions “does anyone on earth feel like a human? / I’m stuck in the past and my future is looming / I just need to know how much further to go / till I start to feel more okay with the death of my youth.” A highlight for Jake Pachasa’s drumming, “Bad Bets” finds Zander—somewhat unconvincingly—crooning “it doesn’t hurt at all / that all my childhood friends got rich.” The tune grows from its sparse opening to a wild final pass through the chorus, and it’s a testament to how strong these tracks are that “Bad Bets” feels like the most impressive yet, even as Equipment pull things back just a bit energywise.

That restraint continues as side A of the record closes with “Jewelry.” Here, Zander is joined by a steady acoustic and tambourine as he ultimately admits “your jewelry is by my bed / exactly where you left it / it calms me down / I fall asleep / wake up and start all over.” The delicate moment of vulnerability is left to linger during the flipping of the record or cassette, but then it’s gone as “Minnow” sets a breakneck pace that’s kept through most of side B. A standout track, “Minnow” is packed with the various tricks Equipment utilize on Alt. Account—a wild rhythm section, self-deprecating lyrics, riffs that seem to multiply the more you revisit the track, interjections from Zander’s old YouTube account, and even a coda of layered vocals. 

After another wild opening, “Username” offers a dramatic comedown musically from the mind-bending “Minnow.” That comedown doesn’t last long though, and “Username” is yet another standout track with the explosive chorus of “I’ll get on for messed up reasons / I’ll get off just to get off / I will self-destruct online / I’ll be seen drinking from a trough / you’re in my throat and I can’t cough” falling in between some of the most impressive guitar work on the record. As a song detailing the messy stretch of time following a breakup, “Username” is thematically connected with “Your Clothes Without You In Them”—the slowest track here and the second time Equipment deliberately drop the pace. The slower tempo is still introduced smoothly, though, following the acoustic close of “Username,” and the energy stays up as the tune eventually flips into one of the catchier choruses here with “if you wanted to say something to me / then you would have right there and then / you would have by now” drowning in a glorious early 2k pop waterfall of synths and guitars.

It’s kind of astounding considering Alt. Account is packed with great songs, but Equipment truly did hold back the best, most exuberant track for the closer. Stretching past five minutes, “Perfect Temperature Coffee” is a relentless marathon. Jagged guitars accompany verses of regret like “last night he drank eleven drinks / his friends all hate how highly of alcohol he thinks / he wakes up pukin’, vodka smell on his skin / sent home from work, they think he’s wasted,” while an insistent forward motion drives the chorus of “every day, we start from scratch / and what we do is where we’re at / every night, we count our pay / and sometimes we don’t do so great / but all that matters in the end is / how we feel about the time we spend / don’t trap yourself already / you got this, oh you’re ready” that launches into the most stunning breakdown and jaw-dropping run of riffs on the record.

In June, when Origami Angel and Home Is Where dropped fantastic albums on the same day, it threw a light on how pointless it can be—and easily muddled it can get—comparing emo records when, musically, what is considered emo can be vast range of things from hushed acoustic tracks, to supersonic guitar tapping, to discordant sounds that challenge you to find the beauty amidst the noise, and so much more. But, if the “emo album of the year” conversation has to be had, Alt. Account absolutely must be in that conversation as Equipment is surely one of the most exciting bands in the genre right now.

Alt. Account is out Friday 9/29 with vinyl, CDs, cassettes, and merch available through the group’s own label Klepto Phase Records.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great Phenomenal

Aaron Eisenreich | @slobboyreject

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