.Album Review: Ugly Winner 'Inside Your Wave'

Ugly Winner’s new album, Inside Your Wave, is bigger, louder and packs more of a punch then their 2010 album, Minutes, Years & Never.
What makes the new album more gripping, in part, is how much better the recording quality is. The guitars are thicker and fuller, the drums are crisper and the vocals are more artistically drenched in reverb and echo. Interestingly it was all recorded in the band’s home.
This album is a step forward, stylistically, for the San Jose four-piece. They’ve matured past the standard indie rock tricks of lush, gleaming guitars, heavy dynamic building and aimless Sonic Youth-inspired jams, and have emerged with a collection of understated art-rock songs.
The best song on the album, “Perfect Nothing,” is a dreamy, half-tempo, amphitheater, sing-along rocker, though not to be confused with say, a Bon Jovi arena anthem. The music is far too weird for that, but it does seem like a subtle tip of the hat to the larger-than-life side of rock ‘n’ roll.

Compared to Minutes, Years & Never, the guitar work and song structure on the new album is much more creative and unpredictable. The opening track, “Fret One (Grow Old),” is a hard-rocker that hangs on just a couple notes, like an early Joy Division song, full of the punk rock fire without having any parts that could be reasonably construed as punk rock. The vocals weave in and out of the heavy echo effect, using it at moments for an extra punch of aggression.
Another distinguishing element to this new record is the reoccurring jangle-pop, angular guitar work. Songs like “Thoughtful Spots,” “These Hands They Shake” and “HaHa” all have guitar parts that could almost pass for Modest Mouse post-punk dance riffs.
Where Ugly Winner have developed the most is their ability to wander with focus, like on the ending of “HaHa.” Ugly Winner shifts gears, but they don’t drift away, they take us to a totally new, but logical destination musically.
The two songs that most resemble the older Ugly Winner sound, “So Well” and “TCBAHBS” still show growth. Their use of finger-picking guitar lines and dynamic-building shows more subtly than before.” So Well,” in particular strikes an odd balance between a straight forward rock song, a touching ballad and a strange, creepy horror song.
 

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