Water from Your Eyes' 'Everyone's Crushed' Finds Joyous Melody in Chaos
Published May 23, 2023Water from Your Eyes has released one of the most imaginative pop albums of the year. Composed of vocalist Rachel Brown and producer Nate Amos, the duo set out to reinvent the collaborative dynamic at the center of their project, now six albums deep. The result is Everyone's Crushed, a collection of songs that is as playful and spirited as it is disorienting. The pair often opt for linear, non-traditional song structures, seemingly incoherent assemblages of sonic timbres and surrealist lyrics delivered almost completely deadpan. Despite the often abrasive experimental flourishes, the album retains a joyous sense of melody and pulse that makes it undeniably fun at its core.
For the listener, part of that fun is in familiarizing yourself with the quirky stack of layers that make up many of the tracks. "Structure" introduces the record with a nod to the chopped and screwed bliss of vaporwave, an influence that pops up now and again as Amos manipulates the sonic profile of otherwise innocuous instruments to satirical and uncanny effect. "Remember Not My Name" is capped off with a woodblock sample drifting slowly off-beat, gently tugging the listener away from the forward motion of the rhythm.
However compelling these moments of sonic subversion are, they are secondary to the propulsive sense of groove present on the album's best tracks. The rhythm section of "Everyone's Crushed" wouldn't be out of place on a 1970s British prog rock record, while "Barley'' approaches krautrock levels by finding danceability through rigidity. It's not just Amos who is responsible for that rhythmic drive, as Brown's keen awareness of when to employ a near spoken word vocal styling is just as integral to establishing a song's momentum.
"Barley" is a standout and especially representative of Everyone's Crushed as a whole, pairing unnerving textures that weave in and out of the mix with a muscular dance-punk rhythm section. It also serves as an example of the structural formula that both gives the record its charisma and also runs the risk of wearing thin. Many of these tracks are built on the premise that assembling and then stripping various layers overtop a persistent sample, motif or groove will keep the listener engaged. The strategy mostly succeeds, but the tradeoff made is that the songs never manage to veer into unexpected territory once their building blocks are introduced. There is a distinct difference between being surprised by a newly introduced sound and the payoff of a bridge, pre chorus or outro that makes you rethink the sonic territory of a piece wholesale, even if momentarily.
Despite that minor shortcoming, there is an inescapable charm to these songs. Repeated listens drive home an arresting tenderness in Brown's vocal delivery and in Amos' production decisions. Moments that might otherwise feel lost in sonic busyness, like the plaintive singing at the end of "Open," are instead testaments to the maturity in the duo's craft. There isn't a single moment on Everyone's Crushed that doesn't feel crafted to perfection, leaving no doubt that Water from Your Eyes is hitting a stride. (Matador)