On 'Save the Baby,' Enumclaw Turn Dreams into Reality

BY Dylan BarnabePublished Oct 13, 2022

Self-described via their cheeky Twitter bio as the "Best Band Since Oasis," Enumclaw are boldly staking their claim as the next big thing in alt-rock. The tagline is obviously a gag, but with their eagerly awaited debut Save the Baby, the Tacoma, Washington four-piece — frontman Aramis Johnson, guitarist Nathan Cornell, drummer Ladaniel Gipson and bassist Eli Edwards — prove that there's some truth in every joke. 

The album, produced by Gabe Wax (Soccer Mommy, Crumb, Fleet Foxes), is an impressive, carefully made thing, uninterested in trying to be something it's not and unconcerned with positioning itself alongside Washington's long canon of grunge and indie rock staples. The sound is mature and the melodies are catchy and palatable without feeling hollow. Above all, it's fresh.  

Reformulating the Gallagher brothers' rags-to-richest ascent to international fame, Enumclaw uniquely grapple with the harsh realities of working-class life in the South Puget Sound and spin it into head-nodding, heart-squeezing gold. The death of a father at a young age; a close friend's schizophrenia; a mother's long commute to provide for her family and recurring food insecurity are all experiences that Johnson, through the lens of a Black man living in America, animates with his shoegazing, magnetic storytelling. Nicknamed the "City of Destiny," Tacoma itself also assumes a central role on Save the Baby. The album is very much rooted in its particular time and place, exploring how to break cycles of trauma, escape your hometown, and the importance of pursuing a dream — of not getting stuck. The stakes are high, but so are the rewards.       

From the onset, Enumclaw quickly establish a vise grip on their listeners, Johnson's vocals bringing equal parts maturity, heartache and longing. The immediate intimacy of lyrics like "I couldn't give you all that I had / I wish I had a dad" on "Somewhere" are gut-wrenching, while others allude to a longstanding internal existential battle: "If I'm being honest / I can't talk to my self-conscious" ("2002"). There is the physical battle of leaving Tacoma but also the mental battle of excising yourself from the past to create the future. "I just want to wake up brand new," Johnson sings on the eponymous opening track. No matter the emotional height, Johnson can stick a tune with impeccable landing. 

The band also explores the active tension required to achieve your dreams, outlined in painstaking detail on "Park Lodge." Johnson recalls the hardships of his childhood and the individual will to create, shape and make his vision of a rock band a reality: "Where I'm from dreams aren't made from a sunny day / In the rain I made it happen all inside my mind." Enumclaw is fighting an uphill battle but refuse to recede into the gloomy fog of the Pacific Northwest. The acoustic closing number brings it home with a moving testament to the human spirit: "Hey! You've got one last chance! / Why not give it all that you have?" 

By the end, you're full-on cheering for the self-actualization of Enumclaw. Save the Baby is surprisingly introspective and stays with you long after the first listen. It's an album to question your roots to, to reconsider your surroundings and your motives. It's an album to propel you forward, to follow your dreams and to follow your heart. Johnson explores the liminal spaces of life with ease, detailing his personal costs to arrive at his current destination. "I will be who I was destined to be," he affirms on "10th and J 2." Enumclaw have arrived, and the dream is looking more and more like reality. 

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