Wallows' 'Model' Slumps When It Should Soar

BY Karlie Rogers Published Jun 3, 2024


With two albums and two EPs under their belt, Wallows — the brainchild of Dylan Minnette, Braeden Lemasters and Cole Preston — have successfully constructed both a brand and a recognizable sound that is best enjoyed while penny boarding at sunset in an oversized shirt, a sticker-covered Hydro Flask gripped by a scrunchie-clad hand.

The trio set an ambitious goal for their third record; in an interview with Rolling Stone, Minnette shared his hopes that Model would be the "most approachable album" that the band has made thus far, while also appealing to non-fans. This statement could've been interpreted as hinting at a re-imagined sound or perhaps some unexpected collaborations, but the band didn't leave much to fans' imaginations as they released five singles prior to Model's release day that did not, in fact, sound like anything new.

Model was produced by John Congelton, who the band had previously worked with on their 2019 debut album Nothing Happens. Nothing Happens has since become a staple of indie TikTok, repping fan favourites like "Scrawny" and "Are You Bored Yet?," the latter featuring fellow bedroom-pop idol Clairo. On paper, re-teaming with Congleton is promising, a return to the relative strength and directness of Nothing Happens. However, Model falls short of this aspiration, and the record's lack of dynamism ultimately fulfilled Minnette's wish of not taking too much of their fans' attention this time around.

Model begins with "Your Apartment," a classic Wallows track with its energetic, confident production that expertly owns the indie-pop coming-of-age sound that the band has been so revered for. The precedent that "Your Apartment" sets is followed by "Anytime, Always," where the momentum and triumphant buildup lands on shaky, Vans-clad feet before finding solid ground on its descent.

After a solid start, Model soon finds itself slipping into a monotonous indie pop haze. Third track "Calling After Me" drags on without the direction or sense of purpose that the first two tracks set, a lack of distinctiveness setting in as the following songs all begin to bleed into each other. Lemasters takes a turn on the mic on "Bad Dream," a track that feels like a ceiling fan spinning in lazy circles in a sticky motel room, its low-energy sticking out like a sore thumb. "A Warning" provides a pretty accurate summation of the listening experience for this album so far: "You could've given me a warning / 'Cause you had me holding out for nothing."

Nothing Happens and Tell Me That It's Over were both strong explorations of the low-stakes world Wallows work in, and saw the band pushing themselves to experiment with new sounds while still staying true to what they're successful at. The band's idea of having this third record appeal to non-fans feels odd and their trust feels misplaced, especially when both of their previous albums, and even EPs, are so beloved by their target audience. Model is filled with quintessential Wallows-isms: faceless guitar riffs and buzzing synths that add a brightness to the record, its energy bubbling under the surface — but that's really as deep as it ever gets.

"I Wouldn't Mind" is mid-tempo indie-pop sludge that anchors down the first half of the record. The lyrical exploration of the insecurity and the excitement of being in a relationship ("This isn't what I had in mind") on "You (Show Me Where My Days Went") is a self-fulfilling prophecy, which, at the very least makes for an amusing listening experience. 

However, Model takes a more hopeful turn toward the end of the record. "Don't You Think It's Strange?" sees the album finally grasping on to the momentum that "Your Apartment" set at the very beginning, and although it's a predictable indie-pop jam, the riffs and layering of Lemasters's voice feel more present, confident and moody than any of the songs that precede it, its sound echoing the energy and technical intricacy of the bands' previous records.

"Going Under" is the strongest track yet, as its dizzying production adequately embodies the song's themes of insecurity and self-destruction in a way that "Bad Dream" couldn't previously. The desperation in Lemasters's voice builds over time, and the distorted guitar makes it a dynamic, cinematic listen, like a psychedelic stumble through a mirrored funhouse. It's experimental and ambitious for Wallows, echoing the high of Nothing Happens' "Treacherous Doctor."

Model concludes with "Only Ecstasy," a love song that simply feels good enough. Although the track is a pleasant listen with its sweet melodies and heartfelt lyrics, it's clear that Minnette struggles with his higher register, making for a strained vocal performance. Once the song ends there's a difficult-to-shake feeling of incompleteness as you realize that the album is over, seemingly as soon as it started.

Wallows play it safe on Model, with a lack of distinctive storytelling shackling the album to its mid-tempo pop melodies, its highs too few and far between. The narrative cohesion that helped power Nothing Happens and Tell Me that It's Over is gone, and the reserved nature of both its production and lyricism prevents it from touching, let alone clearing, the bar the band set for themselves. 


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