It is the inevitable fate of some bands to be described only in terms of its associated acts—like Billy Bob Thornton’s celebrity overshadowing his band, the Boxmasters, on Q, infamously—and in that sense Walter TV will always be introduced by mentioning their connections to famed Canadian smart-ass Mac DeMarco. However, much like last year’s Alex Calder release Strange Dreams, it would be a disservice to dismiss Walter TV—comprised, yes, of two of DeMarco’s touring buddies, Joe McMurray and Pierce McGarry—as anything unoriginal. Although their affinity for slacker-surf is familiar, there’s an ocean of interesting songwriting throughout their latest, Blessed.
“Candles” starts the album off strong with utterly infectious guitar licks and a vocal cry that straddles Spencer Krug’s (Wolf Parade, Moonface) yodelling and Avey Tare’s (Animal Collective) ridiculous range. The recording quality is noticeably, and intentionally, lo-fi, with hum, buzz, and noise parading around in the background, ignored by the band like an unavoidable artifact on a burnt-out tape cassette. Melodies often warble and bend, backed by a summertime-sounding electric bass.
Blessed hits all of the now-traditional nods to the classics: pot-laced Americana, surfy spring-reverb tanks, and even a tongue-in-cheek nod to 12 bar blues on “Punk Song”. Just as on the follow-up “Surf Metal”, the trio obviously enjoy taking the piss out of different styles of music (the “metal” in the title refers almost exclusively to a short-lived yowl in the chorus), but it’s the usual contemporary smirk that the band applies rather than a serious dedication to sonic experimentation. Blessed fits safely within the “summer music releases” box, never straying too far from its positive vibes of sun, sea, and blue skies.
“Fan (With Keyboards)” is the surprise hit of the record, slotting in at the back quarter of the record with a math-rock tenacity for guitar chirping and the most genuine outpouring of energy on the album. At 2:33, it’s a burst of brightness that burns itself up understandably quickly, ending with twenty seconds of silly production nonsense that serves to counter-act the real emotion of the track. It’s followed up by the boring and completely skippable “Thanksgiving (Looper)”, whose tropic vibes are obviously an impromptu sketch instead of a realistic song. “C’mon Now” is a similarly phoned-in track, but it serves to keep expectations low into closer tune “Tall Mountains”, which is well-worth the wait. It features the band’s best Sunset Rubdown impression, with quirky chirped melodies and a sonic explosion ending that screams for more. If the band had the same raw, real, unfiltered energy it displays at the end of its running time, Blessed would be a serious album to get excited about. At its conclusion, it’s these glimpses of energy that serve to detract from the slacker-rock aesthetic of the rest of the record, showing us that, yes, this trio of musicians can break away from the shadow of their sometimes-bandmate DeMarco, but only a few times on Blessed do they choose to exercise that ability.