Tancred no longer float aimlessly. Instead, they gracefully glide toward their targets. Nightstand verges more on fantasy than Out of the Garden, an advantage that is best shown lyrically. Jess Abbott sings with a sleek presence that, when combined with the teenage angst-filled instrumentation, demonstrates a more refined presence. This is not a band hashing songs influenced from cheesy top 40 radio anymore: this is a group that prides themselves in their bashful pop rock. It is this flaunting that makes Nightstand palatable, even at times when audiences can say that anyone can perform what Tancred plays.
This Minnesota-based band is not redefining the genre as much as it is finding comfort in how dangerous and beautiful it can be. Tancred would garner more acclaim in the early 2000s because of how much they delve into a sound quality not unlike Hillary Duff or Avril Lavigne. The human form of the band would be a 17-year-old outsider who would kick pop machines and writes diary entries about the equally flawed boy in senior year. There is nothing wrong with this when it is grounded in a unique lyricism, even when there is nothing special in a song’s structure.
Abbott simultaneously emanates a flowery and venomous presence within her words. “Hot Star” is incredibly infectious despite how sugary it presents itself. Abbott sings “The card reader says you’re gonna marry me”, having incredibly simple chords backing her. The band is hypnotized, and we vicariously feel it, bobbing our heads from side to side in its straightforward nature. Lyrics become pushed and pulled apart by a malicious tone in “Underwear”, with the words “She’s a demon / No one swings like she swings.” The slow burn of the distortion is what takes her away from the pop the band feels comfortable in toward an indie rock that finds more emotional truth.
“Just You”“Just You” might be a dorky song about young love, yet it is so entrenched in its desires that you cannot help but encourage it. This is a track for those who scream about having their own Romeo and Juliet fantasy, knowing what that entails. The instrumentation creates an empty room to dance in while the two lovers endure each other’s flaws.
“Strawberry Selfish” is the pinnacle of the record. The band has the sensation of a drunken stupor, with Terrence Vitali’s bass strings and Kevin Medina’s drums hinting of a malady. Abbott’s voice cradles upon a darkness with a tiny ray of hope resisting it: “I’ve been a monster / I’ve been a madman / I’ve been a villain / You’ve been a friend.” These four lines were delivered with the slowness of someone not ready to accept the truth, but dropping it anyway. Abbott’s emotions are experienced and true.
Aside from pure simplicity, the main flaw is the lack of maturing within Nightstand. “Queen of New York” manifests its desire in not wanting to grow up by virtue of wanting to be someone’s crush. The track’s confidence and guitar solo manage to redeem itself; the same cannot be said for “Something Else” with the lackluster line “I tried feeling nothing / But it felt just like nothing.”
What might have improved Nightstand is completing the arc it started to build. The first third of the album focused on high school rock and the second third was a change to a more college-grounded sound. It would have been nice to transcend that life for the largeness of adult life away from crushing. Life is so big, and Abbott might have the ability to make its impossibilities and troubles a thing to reflect on.