Jeans Wilder: Totally

For an album so interested in questions about atmosphere, Totally does little to push past its own into something more.

Jeans Wilder


US Release: 2012-06-26
Label: Everloving
UK Release: 2012-06-26
Artist Website
Label Website

From the washed-out album cover to the playful band name to the dude-lingo title Totally, you may think you know what's coming on Andrew Caddick's new record. You may be expecting bright, sunny beach tunes, the kind of stuff we might have not long ago called chillwave. But opener "Blue Dream" dispels any of those assumptions right away. The song starts with the sound of storm. It's not close, not yet, but it's rumbling and it's coming closer, that much is clear.

If it contradicts the album's visual aesthetic, it sets up the record that follows perfectly. This is summer music, that's for sure, but it's more for summer storms or oppressively hot yet overcast days. Totally isn't about throwing your neon-framed shades on and hitting the beach with some buds and a cooler full of cheap beer. This is about peeking out from behind your shades, about thinking about going outside and deciding against it, about simultaneously wishing a thunderstorm would end and watching it with fascination.

If there is a perspective to these songs, it's a muddled one, as if looking through that rain-lashed window pane. The spare, shuffling percussion makes room for melting guitars and keys and vocals often echoed into incoherence. It's hard to make out what Caddick is saying -- "I need your touch," he probably pines at one point in "Slow Burn" -- but that hardly seems to be the point. He takes the clink-clank drums and faded voices of "Maple Bars" and makes something that is as much a memory of a song as it is a song itself. On "Gravity Bong", he starts with some sort of Spector-esque chiming beat and drags it down into gray hues of melancholy. "Evaporated", maybe the most upbeat song here, takes the formless sway of guitars and synths and brightens them up with a simple but propulsive beat.

This is all to say that he takes his basic elements in lots of different directions, all dreary but distinct enough. Caddick also seems keen to play on the idea of summer and its artifacts with song titles like "Limeade" and "Chlorine" and even the slacker junk of "Gravity Bong" and "Maple Bars". But for all the artifacts in the titles, the music itself is terribly elusive. If there are ideas of twisting summer music into something darker, it's hard to see what the point of doing so is. Totally is both compelling for the ways it makes us rethink beach tunes and disappointing for the way it lets the questions it raises sit unexplored. For one, the textures themselves don't always work. The too-light layers of "Slow Burn" feel less like dark turns on familiar sounds and more like the cloying, airy feel of elevator music. "Sunroof" tries to bring things to life with vital handclap percussion, but the over-treated vocals on top are messy and incoherent. "Spanish Tile", meanwhile, could be a fruitfully swampy tangent, but the melodies wander and unravel more than they explore.

For an album so interested in questions about atmosphere, Totally does little to push past its own into something more. In the end, the music starts with a compelling idea but retreats into sameness. It's more than telling that Caddick's vocals, though sweet and ethereal at their best, muddle his words to where you can't make sense of them, because in the end this is an album that stops short of saying anything. It nods to summer jams, and then points to itself, says "look, see, it doesn't all have to sound the same." Caddick is right, it doesn't, but for all its difference, any twist of expectation is only a half-twist, since this bogs down in the same slacker shuffle you'd expect from any beach-bum music. In the end, Totally shows there's a difference between watching the storm from inside and whipping up one of your own.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.