Rapidfire Reviews: Hayes Noble, Abel, MILLY

Posted: by The Editor

Hayes Noble – As It Was, As We Were

On last year’s Head Cleaner, Hayes Noble established himself as someone to watch in the increasingly crowded shoegaze scene. Where most bands dealing in big, fuzzy rock music these days are pulling from Whirr, Hum, or Swirlies, Noble’s guiding light is Dinosaur Jr., and his approach is less about creating the craziest sounds he can than it is about writing a good alt rock song. Unfortunately, with the preponderance of bands exploring this sort of noisy territory, many of them end up favoring style over substance, forgetting that a cool sound does not necessarily make a good song, leaning on fuzz and atmospherics to cover up lackluster songwriting. As It Was, As We Were is not one such album.

It’s strange to say about a noise pop album like this, particularly as a compliment, but the fuzz and the hiss is not essential to As It Was, As We Were. Peel away the crackle coating the guitars on “Nothing Else” and what’s left is a competent, catchy pop rock song; turn the chirping guitars down a notch or two and “Midcoast Kids” isn’t far off from Carpool or recent Prince Daddy. But as they are these songs are more than just run-of-the-mill guitar rock tracks; the piercing crunch of “The End” lends it an emotion weight that wouldn’t otherwise be conveyed by Noble’s voice alone, and the extended, increasingly noisy outro of “In Search Of” feels genuinely earned. All throughout As It Was, As We Were Hayes’ ability to decide what actually suits a song shines through; he never lets shoe-navelgazing get in the way of a good song. There are moments that might not always play to his strengths–”Blue to Grey,” for example, pushes his voice too far back in the mix for its hook to pop the way it demands to–but it’s a nice refinement of his concise debut, and at only nineteen Hayes Noble is off to a better start than most. 

Disappointing / Average / GoodGreat / Phenomenal

Abel – Dizzy Spell

Abel’s third LP Dizzy Spell comes less than a year after their two 2023 EPs, Leave You Hanging and rat race infinity, and makes a nice complement to those two. Leave You Hanging, from August, was an exercise in rootsy slowcore, and November’s rat race infinity added some crunchy, noisy shoegaze to the mix; on Dizzy Spell, that influence takes center stage, resulting in the Columbus, OH, band’s most abrasive music yet. It’s also their first project to be jointly released between Candlepin Records and Julia’s War, and it fits perfectly in the space between those labels’ signature sounds.

Opener and lead single “Dust II” sets the scene aptly, woozy blaring guitars cranked way up, Isaac Kauffman’s voice smeared lightly over them. It’s one of the only tracks on Dizzy Spell that never lets up for even a second, operating at an earsplitting decibel for all of its two minutes; the only song that surpasses it in intensity is the other single, “Mantra,” on which Kauffman and Josh Martino shout themselves hoarse as though they’re auditioning to replace Rick Froberg in Drive Like Jehu. Other cuts, like “Hexed” and “Occupied,” balance the loudness with more tuneful, folksier sections, approximating something like countrygaze; on “Rut,” they even manage to find a hook sharp enough to break through the buzzing. The penultimate cut “Placebo,” which features villagerrr, is the only song that would’ve fit neatly on Leave You Hanging, and even that song with its nursery-rhyme melody and its lolloping guitar arpeggios feels like a step forward from the writing on that EP. It’s hard to imagine the same band who wrote that EP put out Dizzy Spell, but it speaks to how far Abel’s come.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

MILLY – Your Own Becoming

In the wave of grungy, gazey alt rock bands popping up, MILLY’s carved out a unique niche. Frontman Brendan Dyer always sings like he’s he’s trying not to wake a sleeping partner, and even at their gnarliest, their scuzzy guitars seem to dribble outward rather than rushing ahead. There’s none of the grit, grime, or grunge of contemporaries like Fleshwater or Heavenward, but they also eschew the velvety billow of the Punchlove or DIIV albums from this year, opting instead for a laid-back, syrupy style that verges on slowcore. 

After the enticing Wish Goes On EP, MILLY put out their debut full-length Eternal Ring; on that record, MILLY beefed up their sound, adding some bite to their guitars, and Dyer seemed to get more comfortable being expressive, his voice rising above the murmur he’d adopted before. Your Own Becoming, the band’s second full-length, largely follows that same template. From the outset, opener “Blocked on Everything” is built out of a squall of feedback and some of the chunkiest riffs they’ve ever laid down. “Running the Madness” and “Bittersweet Mary” push the band’s sound into heavier, grungier territory than ever before, and on “Spilling Ink” MILLY picks up the pace; it’s a subtle change, but for a band who so often deals in muddy, mid-tempo alt rockers, the zippiness of “Spilling Ink” helps it stand out as one of the record’s best tracks. Similarly, on the relatively epic four-minute ender “Nothing to Learn From,” they deconstruct their fuzz rock sound, bringing the song to a halt halfway through to allow themselves some time to rebuild from a drum-led instrumental bridge. Moments like these lend the album a nice sense of balance. MILLY’s at their best when they allow themselves those peaks and valleys, and Your Own Becoming gives them the space to stretch out.

Disappointing / Average / GoodGreat / Phenomenal

Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison

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