Wavves: ‘Afraid of Heights’ Album Review

From San Diego California, Wavves is a surf, grunge, lo-fi rock group led by the lead singer Nathan Williams. The band has changed in a few ways from their previous album to their current one, Afraid of Heights. Wavves now has a great production behind them, recording in a studio where the music comes off more clear and fresh. This album has a lot of grit that makes this album very enjoyable. However, there are some hiccups on Afraid of Heights.

Nathan’s singing still has a lot of personality. There’s no question that he has a voice that brings a lot of enthusiasm into his work. Even the wails that he pulls off in some of the tracks are really enjoyable. “Demon to Lean On” is a great example and possibly the best song on Afraid of Heights. Nathan sings with tremendous passion as the drums and guitars jam loudly in the backdrop. In his songs he tells tales of love, failure, death and loneliness. For such depressing themes, he manages to sound catchy and almost upbeat, which is a difficult feat.

The music is also very enjoyable. It drives towards a garage rock sound that feels gritty and well-made. The guitars stem between a pop and punk sound that fares well. The whole overproduction comes off very slick as well. Everything off Afraid of Heights comes off sounding nice and clean. At times the music does slow down and it sort of chips away at the signature style that makes Wavves. They do this mainly to focus more on the lyrics for the album, giving the sound the backseat of the situation.

Unfortunately, the lyrics are flawed on this LP. These flaws have been persistent in previous work and they continue to flow into Afraid of Heights. The energy and the production are definitely here on the album. You can tell the band is putting everything they have into this album, pulling off impressive hooks and melodies in the LP. But the songwriting and lyrics come off so shallow to the point where it feels unmemorable. A lot of their chorus is just repeated constantly over the tracks that leaves little flavor to the songs. Their tracks aren’t necessarily bad; it’s just that there isn’t much there. There are very few spots where Nathan said anything that was moving, twisted, or powerful, which is sort of a letdown. At times it seems like Nathan’s flaws are an instrument to help him with his influence material.

Afraid Of Heights isn’t perfect. While no tracks are necessarily bad, the second half slumps greatly. Songs from “Cop” through “Everything Is My Fault” are merely bland. Some of the grimy, noisy sounds that made Wavves unique from their earlier works have slightly faded in this album. Yet Wavves still pushes out superb hooks that really stand out on this album. Wavves fans should definitely pick up this album for their jams alone. As for everyone else, this album may not be ground breaking, but the poppy garage-rock sounds still make it a fun listen.