Wand’s alchemical change from fuzz punks into purveyors of mercurial indie prog is complete as they slide into their fifth album, Laughing Matter. Opening with the icy, Radiohead-esque pulse of “Scarecrow,” they seem to tip their hand, giving listeners a feeling of what to expect. However, they prove harder to pin down as the album progresses. The record hooks its claws into shades of shoegaze one minute, turning the fog-machine blur to a tumultuous ten, with Corey Hanson’s vocals climbing out of the mix in high, lonesome wails. The next, they’re picking out a loping folk intro, creaking the porch slabs in the background and thrumming on soft, purple twilight glows. They continue to weave through style swaps over the album’s hefty tracklist – sinewy here, angular there, riding a rollercoaster of thick muscular riffs buried in redline fuzz with ease on more than one occasion. Yet, where that might sound like a band struggling with identity, Laughing Matter proves that the band’s only just found their way between the cracks of genre to embrace a more ambitious persona.
Hearkening back to late ‘90s / early aughts budget bumps on alternative types, the record allows itself to embrace a bigness and grandiosity that’s been whittled down a bit in the wake indie’s genre drilldown tendencies. Sure, there are still a few who cast a wide net without totally sliding into the banal end of the pop pool (say: Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Temples), but Laughing Matter is the band’s swipe at something that might fit in with outsized psych at the centennial click-over that reverberated through records by Serena Maneesh, Secret Machines, Soundtrack of Our Lives, The Earlies, and yes, Radiohead.
It’s a record that makes space for silence and coiled anticipation. While it could have perhaps been whittled some, there’s a certain respect in becoming the biggest version of yourself possible. Fans of any of the touchstones mentioned should find something to savor on Wand’s new direction, and holdover Wand fans won’t find themselves disappointed. This feels like a natural progression from where they were on Plum. Last year’s stop-gap Perfume felt like, just that, a distraction rather than a move forward. This is that big leap the band promised, as long as you’ve got a good hour ten to strap in, the band’s ready to unleash their magnum opus.
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