listening to the new wallows album & exiting my youth

 

It’s very rarely that a piece of art comes along at just the right time and summarizes everything in your internal world to a T. To have a work resonate so much with the current state of your life is so synchronistic and so beautiful that it’s strangely reassuring - even though the work isn’t a sentient being, it’s a chronicle of the experiences of another person, and in that way, I feel like I’m not alone, regardless of what I’m going through. That’s what the album Nothing Happens by Wallows is for me.

For two years now, I’ve been a dedicated supporter of the Wallows boys, ever since “Sun Tan” first popped up on my Spotify Discover Weekly in 2017. Since then, I was hooked, attending every show of theirs that I could. I waited in line for 12 hours on Sunset Boulevard to see them perform at Amoeba Music, and it was at this show where I met the people I consider today to be my best friends, fellow Wallows fans who were as devoted to the music as I was. I saw them open for Vampire Weekend two nights in a row to sold-out crowds at the Observatory. I booked a last-minute flight to Chicago for one day only to see them play Lollapalooza, their first-ever festival. I waited for hours and hours in the 110 degree Las Vegas heat to see them front row at Life is Beautiful. I even got “Let The Sun In”, the name of my favorite Wallows song, tattooed on me in Braeden’s handwriting.

Most recently, I was invited to attend the exclusive release party for their first ever full length album, Nothing Happens. The event took place at the iconic Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale, California. I’m a klutz on roller skates, I trip over myself and I curse anything that takes away the balance in my own two feet. Nevertheless, I accepted the invitation, looking forward to a night of laughing at myself, falling on my face, and making some irreplaceable memories, along with my best friends while we listened to our favorite band’s new album for the very first time.

Nothing Happens is an album that came to me at the time when I needed it the most, and I’m not just saying this because I’m biased towards my favorite band. The subject matter caters specifically to twenty-somethings and seems to help us on the uncomfortable transition into “adulthood” - a word that seems to have a million different definitions and connotations, a place where there are a million different possible routes to get to the same end destination, and yet, no one really knows where they are going or how they are getting there. The lyrics to every individual song on Nothing Happens illustrate this so beautifully - as twenty-somethings, we’re not really adults, per se, but we’re not children either - we want this indescribable something, but it’s not so clear how we achieve that.

I heard the first few notes of “Only Friend” while I was sitting near the roller rink. The lights were bright and neon, and the laughter reverberated off the linoleum floors. I felt overwhelmed by the pride I felt for my band, these three talented and hard-working guys whose musical journey I’d followed since the very beginning.

“Pick up the pieces/Finding a place in the world/To be”

One thing I’ve learned in life after almost 22 years is that change is the only constant we have. While my presence on social media makes it seem like I’m always on the go, traveling and expanding my world (and in the literal sense, I am), change can sometimes be terrifying to me. I find myself clinging to shards of the past in the form of ticket stubs, photographs, a phrase, a memory. I find myself resisting change in more internalized ways than I’ve ever realized before - and the older I get, the more I realize that I need to flow with change instead of resisting it, as I always have.

“Treacherous Doctor”, the next song on the album, flows so perfectly into where “Only Friend” left off that I almost mistook them for one continuous song. That’s how time has felt for me lately - flowing into itself continuously, with days turning into months turning into years. I’m almost 22 years old, and I’m dying to know how that happened. How am I two years into my twenties, and I barely even feel like an adult?

“Love, in terms of life in the twenties/Nothing much to look forward to

I can’t help but cry on vacation/Is this the way to exit my youth?”

My love life is almost non-existent, and I blame it on growing up in-between generations. Tinder gives me a headache, Bumble isn’t much better, and I still long for meeting someone in person, as unrealistic and cliche as that sounds. There really isn’t anything to look forward to, especially since I find myself so invested in my career, in school, in my writing, in everything except for love.

I cried in the fitting room of a vintage store in New York City when I thought I might lose my job. I’ve cried in Las Vegas, I’ve cried in Seattle, I’ve cried because my vacations are blissful and yet they can’t be my everyday life - not yet, at least. Eventually, my goal is to be my own boss and incorporate my travels alongside my work. But it takes money to make money, and while I love my current job, I’m always aching for something more. When I travel and see more of this world, I’m reminded that there has to be more.

Regardless of whether I want them to or not, things are changing. My dad got laid off from his job of 16 years, the job he’d drive to after dropping me off at my kindergarten classes. I just moved to my own apartment, and I’m sitting with the massive discomfort and anxiety of being completely self-sufficient. Nothing’s gone according to plan. I entered the “professional” (read: not retail or food service) workforce before getting a college degree, I moved out on my own before buying a car or getting a license even, I traveled the entire United States before having remotely any of my shit together in my life. Is this the way to exit my youth? The words reverberated off the walls of the Moonlight Rollerway and left me still in my place, a sea of roller skaters gliding around me, going nowhere in particular.

“What’s the fun if you know what’s coming?/I don’t want to escape this feeling

And when we tear down the walls completely/Are we left with the same old memories?”

The first few notes to “Ice Cold Pool” are, for a lack of more eloquent words, groovy. The song definitely takes some 70’s flair and mixes it with modern influences (and a Cocteau Twins reference). It’s definitely a song that encapsulates the theme of living in the moment - while I sometimes tend to cling to the secure and stable, what’s the fun if you know what’s coming?

Despite crying in the L Train Vintage dressing room, despite my rocky relationship with change, sometimes being blindsided can be a comfort, at least for me. I never want to leave the feelings of youth, of adventure, of escapism, even though I know one day, I’ll be looking back at these days I’m currently living out as memories. I’ve torn down the pictures off the wall of my childhood room, and I’ve come face to face with some of my favorite moments, now merely film prints and photo strips. Sometimes, it’s freeing to live in the fleetingness of these memories.

“Then I’m screaming in my head/When I’ve got nowhere to go

Then I’m falling into bed/On a high, can it go low?”

“I’m Full” is a song that Wallows has been performing live for years, but just made its studio version debut on this album. I’d always loved the beat and overall sound of this song when it was played live, but never took a chance to listen to the lyrics. When you’re struggling with mental illness, especially when you’re in your twenties or your teen years, it really can feel like there’s nowhere to go but your own head. My head is always messy, always loud, always chaotic. There’s never a place to spill all the contents, and so I turn to writing and to live music, things that have saved my life day in and day out.

“All the things you don’t wanna let go/You wanna look back on in the cold/All the times that feel like everything/When nothing really happens at all/They’re still here/All in that important room/You’ve got your pictures up on the wall”

The day after the release party, I started packing up my childhood room, the only four walls I’d called home for 21 years. My life was disjointed, with almost all of my things at my apartment, but there were still pictures on my wall, ticket stubs and memories of simpler times before rent and utilities and college credits and the constant voice in my head telling me to do anything except sit still.

“Do not wait, do not wait, do not wait

I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there (you’re ready and you know it)

Do not wait, do not wait, do not wait

I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there

(Something you’ll always remember)

Do not wait, do not wait, do not wait (your parents will end up where they belong)

I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there

(Never hurt you to talk to them, though)

Do not wait, do not wait, do not wait (And guess what? She’s obsessed with you)

I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there, I’ll be there

(When shit gets hard, don’t worry about me)”

Out of all the songs on Nothing Happens, “Do Not Wait” hit me the hardest. Despite how hard things can get, I know I’m ready. I know I’ll succeed in my endeavors, I know my dad will find a new job, I know I’ll get past this uncomfortable feeling, I’ll grow up and I’ll be okay.

It often feels impossible to get through transitioning into adulthood, and you get stuck and want to give up more often than not, but having music and art around can be a huge comfort. Thank you, Wallows, for making an album that perfectly resonates with this period of my life. Do yourself a favour and listen to Nothing Happens right now - hopefully this album will mean as much to you as it means to me.