Indie pop-rock band and trio Wallow’s most recent extended play, “Remote,” serves as an escapist break from the hazy, COVID-19-pandemic-saturated limbo that has become the world’s new normal. The project’s six shimmery tracks, though brief, should be enough to satisfy a sweet tooth, despite the EP’s short length.
The Los Angeles-based trio consists of Braeden Lemasters, Cole Preston and Dylan Minnette (of “13 Reasons Why” fame). The group skyrocketed to fame with their 2019 single “Are You Bored Yet?,” featuring lo-fi pop singer Clairo, which has garnered over 200 million streams on Spotify. The song was featured on their debut album “Nothing Happens,” which peaked at number eight on the Billboard Alternative Albums chart.
“Remote” marks their first EP since “Nothing Happens,” released in March of 2019, following a string of singles throughout 2020, including “OK” and a cover of The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Two singles preceded “Remote’s” release Oct. 23: “Nobody Gets Me (Like You)” and “Virtual Aerobics.”
Though Wallows’ sound can be neatly defined by categories like power pop and alt rock, characterizing their overall sound as the perfect score for the resolution of a teen coming-of-age movie might be a more accurate description. “Remote” plays on this general theme with its glittery production featuring saccharine synths and reverb-soaked vocals that could very well have been ripped from the script of a John Hughes film.
The band’s discography can also be described as “bedroom pop,” and “Remote” is no exception. Many of the lyrics read like confessions poured into a teenager’s diary, and the production boasts an impressively nuanced minimalism that rivals the likes of bedroom-pop icons like Clairo and Rex Orange County.
Throughout “Virtual Aerobics,” the protagonist navigates the dizzyingly giddy pursuit of a new romantic relationship: “wanna dress in what makes you like me.” In “Wish Me Luck,” he struggles to be vulnerable with his partner: “I don’t wanna lose myself to all my insecurities / If I told you all of them, who would it hurt more, you or me?” Lyrics like these capture the ethos of Generation Z in a way only bedroom pop can.
While certain sonic themes may pervade the tracklist, narratively, the songs have no common thread to bind the album together; each track tells a distinct story. The EP’s title reflects its eclectic nature: “[i]t’s like six stations on a remote control, that was the visual idea of what we wanted it to be,” Minnette explained to DIY Magazine. “Talk Like That” even includes a playful outro expanding on this idea: “hey John, that last one was pretty good but, uh, how do you change the station on this thing?”
Though they composed the entirety of the project during the heavy lockdown that defined the earlier months of 2020, the group wanted to ensure the EP made no references to the hectic context of its production. Minnette admitted in the same interview some lyrics in an early version of “Dig What You Dug” alluded to the pandemic, but Lemasters and Preston convinced him to scrap those lines to prevent the EP from becoming a “quarantine record,” such as Charli XCX’s “how i’m feeling now.”
While “Remote’s” cheeriness may offer a different respite from pandemic woes than flipping through Netflix’s extensive catalogue, it does not quite demonstrate a significant moment of growth in terms of Wallows’ musical development. For a project completed entirely virtually via FaceTime, Voice Memos and long-distance phone calls, however, the lack of musical progression is perhaps forgivable. If the band’s upcoming album demonstrates some evolution in their sound, they could truly differentiate themselves from the abundance of bedroom-pop groups that have sprung up in recent years, marking the beginning of Generation Z’s journey to adulthood.
Bolstered by their genuine lyrics, high-energy performances and goofy internet personas, Wallows may have a long and illustrious career ahead of themselves. The band is optimistic about a late-2021 release date for their second album which offers the chance to bring their new music directly to fans in a world tour. Until then, Minnette, Lemasters and Preston can share their own experiences listening to “Remote” at home with their millions of followers on TikTok.