By Mark Tillman
In the latter part of 2013, three students from Arizona State University named Jared Geyer, Greg Olin, and Kevin Holmes formed Weslynn, an alternative rock outfit on a mission; not just a simple walk into Mordor either, but a self-proclaimed ambition to create unique and inspiring music with a feeling.
Nearly two years after their inception, Weslynn unveiled their debut EP, Dark Days. Mission accomplished? For some listeners, almost certainly. However, of the band's three stated goals their success is a bit of a mixed bag. While the EP is definitively filled with moments that are meant to inspire, this particular success may leave some listeners feeling a bit too direct of a hit. As for the two remaining mission statements, your mileage may vary.
The feeling Weslynn created on Dark Days is conflicted to a degree. While the name of the EP inspires a somber tone, the songs themselves all carry a light and airy quality, with the exception of their closing track “Shining Night”. Lyrically, there are certainly moments that fall more in line with the expectations set by the album title. This is most apparent on “Hell to Love”, although overall there is still somewhat of a mismatch. When it comes to the uniqueness of Weslynn's sound they undoubtedly have room to grow. Granted, this is objectively the most challenging of their three stated goals.
Dark Days opens with an up-tempo track of the same name. Here and throughout the rest of the EP, Weslynn employs the use of crisp, punchy drumming and bright guitar melodies. The dark days are in the past lyrically and the warmth of the instrumentation carries this theme along smoothly. Ending with a ride into the sunset, listeners are left with a sense of optimism. Without a lot of complexity in the composition, their sound is accessible and familiar. From the handful of artists Weslynn cites as inspirational sources, their opening track most closely reflects a Coldplay aesthetic. The production of the whole EP is exceptionally clean and uncluttered with very little guitar distortion.
Their second track, “Poetry in Motion” opens with one of the only instances where the use of any guitar distortion can be found. The effect is present throughout the remainder of the song and is paired with a fuzzy bass line that creates a feeling of comfortable warmth or even coziness. Lyrically, this is a good fit as listeners are called between the sheets for a glimpse into an intimate moment between apparent lovers. While the lyrics on “Poetry in Motion” are about as cliche as the title; the end result is a feeling of safeness. Ultimately, this is a defining quality of the album as a whole.
The first single, “Hell to Love” was released last year and presents the darker tone found in the EP’s title. The message of the lyrics are a warning to stay away from the singer as loving him is “hell”. Instrumentally, this is perhaps the most forgettable of their tracks. The least risky song of five very safe-sounding tracks is a logical choice for the first single as the goal seems to be mainly about accessibility. “One Four” leads with a relaxed duet between guitar and piano, building to an invitation to “run away”. Another love song, this track breaks away from the darker tone of “Hell to Love”. Here the imagery is of summer love. Without much deviation from prior tracks, instrumentally there is little to warrant a comment.
The closing track on Dark Days most closely matches the tone laid out by the EP’s title. The lyrics paint an image of a failing relationship abandoning the happier attitude found in the majority of songs from Dark Days. Instrumentally, “Shining Night” is easily the most interesting offering on the album. Closing with a guitar solo was a surprising deviation from the flow of the song and the rest of the EP. However, that couple of seconds at the very end of Dark Days proved to be the most engaging part of Weslynn’s five track debut release.
In the end, Weslynn presents a very safe and accessible first release that will be a love-it-or-hate-it experience for most listeners.