Country-gaze is a genre that is likely unfamiliar to most people. A combination of shoegaze and country music might seem like a strange one, but the indie band Wednesday has proved that this unique sound works.
Wednesday is a relatively new band that released its first album, I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone, in 2020. The North Carolina-based group followed it up with the 2021 release Twin Plagues. The band explores notably different sounds across all of its projects, offering listeners samples of the band’s musical talents. The band blends the staple ethereal, distorted instrumentals of the shoegaze genre, similar to the music of Cigarettes After Sex, with some of the guitar styles of country music.
I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone incorporates audio elements of noise rock, an avant-garde spinoff of punk rock. Multiple tracks use intense levels of audio distortion. While Twin Plagues isn’t a complete departure from the sound of Wednesday’s first album, the band quiets down for softer moments on songs like “The Burned Down Dairy Queen.”
Singer and guitarist Karly Hartzman and lead guitarist Jake Lenderman are at the helm of the distinctive group and create a layered, complex sound. Adding in the unique sound of Xandy Chelmis on the lap steel guitar makes Wednesday’s sound special. The instrument creates a unique twang woven in the background of Wednesday’s songs, blending into the shoegaze undertones of the music.
Hartzman’s vocals and lyrics produce a lethargic, emotional tone in each song. For many shoegaze bands, vocals fade into the background in favor of guitar sound. But Hartzman chooses the perfect moments to bring one or the other to the front.
She also wrote some of the most strikingly bizarre lyrics. The singer lends an extra level of personality to the group through imaginative lyrics, including in the chorus of “Maura.”
“And Sissy’s teaching all the parakeets and frogs to hitchhike,” Hartzman sings on the track.
The band’s latest album, Mowing the Leaves Instead of Piling ‘em Up, came out on March 11 and features covers that pay tribute to a diverse array of inspiring musicians. Though the new collection is filled with cover songs, the band creates distinctive versions of classic tunes.
On this record, the band fully embraces the country-gaze genre, as the shoegaze influence remains at the forefront, but the distorted guitar sounds occasionally give way to more traditional country-rock guitar riffs.
The album features a wide range of genres with covers of tracks from Roger Miller to The Smashing Pumpkins. This selection is all the more impressive as Wednesday translates each track into its own sound.
Country songs like “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)” by Gary Stewart sound completely new with the shoegaze distortion on the guitars. The band’s rendition of The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Perfect” gains a sharper, edgier sound.
The musicians of Wednesday work magic as they make interesting collisions of genre and style work together.
The only drawback of the album is the waning presence of Hartzman’s voice. Hartzman shares the microphone on most of the songs with band members Zach Romeo and Lenderman. Both do an excellent job on their own, but Hartzman’s voice is a highlight of the band’s overall sound. Her solo performance of “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinking Doubles)” is a highlight of the album, and Hartzman needs more time to flex her incredible voice.
Wednesday is a pleasant surprise. The country-gaze genre might inspire some skepticism in a listener, as it unites two starkly different sounds. But the music speaks for itself. Wednesday is a band that absolutely deserves more attention, because no one sounds quite like it.
Featured Image Courtesy of Orindal Records