-->
Music

Wakey Wakey: Overreactivist

Radio-ready arrangements meet monotonous lyricism on Wakey Wakey's third full-length effort.


Wakey Wakey

Overreactivist

Label: The End
US Release Date: 2016-02-26
UK Release Date: 2016-02-26
Amazon
iTunes

Wakey Wakey first made tuneful waves with a full-length in 2010’s Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said the Last Time I Saw You. A passion project by Mike Grubbs and brought together by a slew of other musicians, Wakey Wakey came swinging out of the gates in full-on orchestral piano-based pop/rock style not unlike what artists such as the Fray and Coldplay did in an era when they were climbing up the charts with efforts like How to Save a Life and Viva la Vida. Six years and another full-length effort later and Grubbs is still pining away at his same old tricks -- the sweeping and repetitious singalong earworms made in collaboration with a slew of other musicians remains a center-point -- but in greater fashion, this time.

Musically, especially, Grubbs seems to have hit more of a sweet-spot than in past efforts. Each song’s instrumentation and overall arrangement remain that much more intrinsically interesting than past efforts that Wakey Wakey has made thus far. Drawing on influences ranging from ethereal synth to a full-on string orchestra, his vocals are allowed a place to soar in a more commercially-apt environment than they ever have before. It's seriously something to behold, and able to evoke an easy “wow” from first-time listeners on the first spin.

However, irony notwithstanding, initial reactions of this ilk may prove to be a bit of an overreaction, in the end. Not atypical of Grubbs’ decided lyrical developments over the past several years, he often comes across as repetitive to the point of monotony. At first, the ascension of choruses on tracks like “Heartbroke” and the titular “Overreactivist” come across as very catchy and listenable, but as the singalong value of the numbers wear off and listeners eventually sober, it would be forgivable to perceive the overall effort as somewhat tedious.

In this regard, longtime fans of Grubbs’ type of songwriting, featuring sonically impressive, ascending arrangements paired with rather languid lyricism, will find more of the same to enjoy on Overreactivist. On the other hand, those who’ve just gotten around to hearing about Wakey Wakey for the first time, or those who had been previously skeptical of his work, may not be all-too convinced following a listen through of this one.

With that said, this isn’t to slight Grubbs -- too much; his efforts as a composer are strong, if not as totally polished as aforementioned acts also within the "piano pop" lane. Some earworms, such as “Golden”, stick out as sleeper hits that could really grow friendly with the radio waves, whereas the unique instrumentation on tracks like “Homeless Poets” or “Heartbroke” showcase his savvy as a vocalist and arranger that much more.

All in all, it all comes down to a feeling that there could be something more. Grubbs maintains the tools to become a smash hit right at this very moment, and, perhaps, he should. However, in regards to his overall body of work, there are still very obvious signs for improvement. At the end of the day, Overreactivist comes across as solid and even impressive at times. The issue is whether or not the package as a whole is entirely memorable.

5
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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

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

rating-image