By Nathan Pavolko
In the recent surge of chillwave music becoming a popular sound in the indie scene, there have been countless bands with similar styles and methods, all with dream-washed guitars and reverb-soaked vocals chiming to a catchy melody. However, there have been a few new comers who have strayed away from that norm and caught some attention. One of these bands is Day Wave, the brain child of California native Jackson Phillips with accompanying musicians for live performances. After releasing his debut EP Head Case, Phillips officially started his newest venture into lo-fi dream surf. Now, he releases a second EP, titled Hard To Read, in the wake of his excitement and success.
Phillips gave up on a lot of things to ultimately decide on Day Wave, such as jazz drumming while attending Berklee College of Music and deciding to part ways with Carousel, an electro-pop group he previously fronted. He wanted to create something more raw and guitar driven than his earlier efforts. I have a lot of respect for people who create a project completely themselves, considering I am attempting to do the same. A DIY project is a challenging experience, especially for a songwriter; it takes some guts.
Hard To Read is a step in the right direction, with more cohesive song structures and prominent guitar melodies. In the first track “Deadbeat Girl,” guitars weave in and out of each others’ jangling rhythms as light synth work brings warmth and the drums propel the song forward. Phillips sings in a lo-fi muffle “I’m looking for a reaction // Ohhh ohhh // Well you’re not good at them // I know what you’re doing // You’re running away again”. Head Case was a solid debut but Hard To Read immediately has an understanding and determination to venture forward.
Recorded and produced by Phillips himself, there is a feeling that there is less pressure and less second guessing by doing it himself. There is a definite difference in the production compared to his debut: everything seems much clearer; a bit more polished, but still has that lo-fi sound. The entirety of Hard To Read was recorded straight to tape, and it shows. In the song “You,” the warmth of tape is thick as a steady tick of the drums sets a bit of an edge to a gentle bending guitar line. Phillips croons oh’s in the background as the main vocals sing “I don’t know how to feel about // You…” There are a few wonderful parts in this song that I think set it apart from the others, making it a very intimate song and a beautiful yet simple structure. One of them is during the fore-mentioned lyrics: the guitar rings out as everything else stops, making that “You” much more romantic and important. All of the other instruments queue back, in except the guitar, making a smooth transition back into the verse.
Day Wave is off to a great start and is definitely a band to keep an eye on. However, I hope he doesn’t get consumed by the generic chillwave sound that’s been quickly growing. I’d like to see him experiment with what he has created, add something fresh to invigorate his music, and set himself apart from the norm. I’ll be crossing my fingers to hear some of that jazz drumming on his next release. If you’re a fan of Beach Fossils, The Drums, or Craft Spells, then check out Day Wave.