Here's one of those reviews that has sat, half-completed, for an embarrassingly long time. The catalyst for completion? A lyric analysis that CHNNLR posted over on Instagram for the second single released under this project moniker. As stated there, “In Dreams”--the track in question--focuses on the “forms and stages” of clinical depression or anxiety, and how they “can debilitate and take over someone’s mind and body.” Like the artist, I am not diagnosed with these demons, but the person I love most in this world has routinely lived in the midst of a “waking nightmare” (as he astutely puts it) due to machinations of the mind: chemical, situational, or otherwise. Depression and anxiety are legitimate diseases with legitimate implications, and, as CHNNLR states, treatment is a necessity: “Don’t ignore the signs, and don’t just think things will get better. Reach out, connect, check in.” And, given the current state of affairs out there: now more than ever.
PSA over, on to the music itself! As ye may recall, I quite enjoyed CHNNLR's first single, which we premiered in these humble halls back in September of last year. As I described 'em then, this duo occupies a nebulous space, "incorporating elements of shoegaze, dreampop, and good ol' indie rock," with "FAVORITE LIGHT," in particular, displaying a "well-placed moment verging on blackgaze." In the case of "In Dreams," that darker side previously teased has begun to emerge in earnest. The result is, frankly, the kind of track I can find myself accidentally listening to on repeat three of four times without ever feeling the need to refresh. Giving, on my part, a certain proclivity for shaking things up and a tendency to get bored incredibly quickly, that's a major victory in this scribe's book.
While the intro to the track maintains a sample-laden sense of airy atmospherics, an eventual upward trajectory into aggression becomes quite evident--tantalizingly so. Jason's wide-open vox exudes that emotive indie-rock vibe, with perhaps a tad more punch than we've heard before. The true turning point comes halfway through the track, as a false-start choral passage erupts into a fantastic hard rock riff and a dive into the (freshly bolstered) anthemic chorus. The track concludes with a similar moment, albeit cranked up to the utmost. Harsh vocals rip through the increasingly hefty rhythm guitar, as combat-boot'd drums stomp their way to the finish line.
As before, dynamics are key, and CHNNLR demonstrate here a keen eye (and ear) for applying a natural ebb and flow. The harsher moments are balanced out beautifully by the more gentle passages, and vice versa. While we Villagers obviously dwell in the realm of the harsh more often than not, the opportunity to step back and provide a legitimate buildup and contrast to the catharsis is paramount--and, unfortunately, a little underappreciated. Thusfar, CHNNLR have displayed an almost pop-like sensibility to write hooky music that pulls you across a multitude of sounds and emotions in the midst of a single track. Very excited to hear what these guys come up with next.
In short, "In Dreams" is an excellent piece of work. I highly recommend you check it out.
CHNNLR - "In Dreams" was released Jan. 2020, and can be found here.
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.