Toward the end of 2017, Northern Virginia indie rock trio The Duskwhales announced a forthcoming album trilogy, with each installment written by one band member and performed by the group. It’s an ambitious project, and from a band whose members are such formidable talents in their own right, it’s an exciting prospect.
In imagining how that series might go, it bears remembering that one Duskwhale has already given us a taste of his individual style. In 2014, singer-guitarist Seth Flynn released Writing Infinity as solo project One’s A Crowd. While it contains hints of The Duskwhales’ psychedelic sound, it also zeroes in on Flynn as a unique artistic voice.
On “Yellow Vermonte Sky,” Elliott Smith intimacy and classic pop harmonies collide with chorused lead guitar and synth pads reminiscent of The Cure. The songwriting is dynamic, flowing through tempo and progression changes, then slowing to a halt as feedback takes over.
Moments like this also highlight Flynn’s talents as a producer, balancing bedroom pop atmosphere with smart arrangements, giving a finite space the impression of infinity. Throughout the album, he manipulates space and silence to serve each song. Coming one-after-another on the record, the overlapping vocals of “If I Go Away” run up against the sparser verses of “Legs Would Ache.” The latter is another dynamic tune, with its staccato intro giving way to a quietly freewheeling chorus (a contender for the catchiest one on the album, which is saying something).
“Of Indifference” is on the fuller side, thick with bass guitar and staticky, bitcrushed percussion behind Flynn’s 50s chorus melody. It starts as one of the album’s lower, moodier tracks, accelerates into an all-out acoustic guitar jam, and ultimately cuts the momentum for one last a cappella chorus.
Though the album’s description brags no use of auto-tune, the vocal tracks are processed plenty of other ways, to great effect. “Ohocre Noel,” for its part, uses distorted backup vocals for texture and melody.
That track also features some of Flynn’s more evocative imagery. “Saw it as it came into my life / bent the spoons of the world into a big / ladle to hold the contents of my windows / better by yesterday, I would have told you,” he sings. Suggestions of narrative are everywhere, but there are almost too many interesting production features to pay them due attention.
With its “friends are hard to come by / friends, it’s hard to say bye” refrain, album closer “Rose Hips” features Flynn’s emotionalism at its finest and simplest. It’s beautifully melodic, accompanied by a buildup of orchestral proportions, ending the record on a poignant note.
From start to finish, Writing Infinity is a gorgeous work of songwriting and recording craft. The sum of the Duskwhales’ parts is something truly special, but it doesn’t hurt that each member brings so much to the table as an individual.
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