New album ‘Model’ sees Wallows in full bloom

The indie pop band comes into their own with their third studio album.


(Arielle Rizal / Daily Trojan)

Branded as an alternative rock band, Wallows makes true-to-heart indie pop for the masses. On “Model,” the band’s third studio album, listeners find Braeden Lemasters, Dylan Minnette and Cole Preston doing just that. It’s no groundbreaking feat, no extensively drawn-out metaphorical themes, not an off-kilter experiment pushing the boundaries of music; this album is the Wallows blueprint, the band doing what it does best. So, if you take the album for what it is, you won’t be disappointed. 

In the context of the band’s previous releases, “Model” is their Goldilocks record. The mixes are not as busy as its predecessor, “Tell Me That It’s Over,” and the songs are not as narratively focused as their first record, “Nothing Happens.” “Model” is a just-right medley of easy-to-listen-to, easy-to-digest and easily-stuck-in-your-head tracks for the teens and 20-somethings to jump around to. 

Marking the band’s second endeavor with John Congleton — the producer of their debut album — “Model” feels like a reintroduction to Wallows. Its tracks make up the backbone of their sound, taking off from a more developed version of the stripped-down guitar, bass and drums that fans fell in love with in their earliest singles. In perfecting the Wallows formula, the band has come into its own with a newfound confidence listeners can hear from the get-go. 

“Model” erupts with breakneck speed in its opening tracks, a game of musical leapfrog that grips listeners with a three-track series of upbeat excitement. On “Your Apartment,” rolling drums and guitar loop through melodic piano chords, clocking the pace and setting the tone for what’s to follow. Tension builds as Minnette recounts the challenging flurry of emotions that come with the end of a relationship.

Over before you know it, this drawn-out build and quick release is a pattern worked well into the Wallows form. It’s part of what makes Wallows songs so addicting, a head-bopping kind of catharsis that gets fans to their feet, shouting at the top of their lungs. The band puppeteers your brain’s reward system, building this prolonged anticipation to make the song’s fateful conclusion all the more enjoyable, satisfying your craving with the next track before you can even realize you wanted more. 

“Anytime, Always” kicks off with clean guitar and a persistent bass line, an outline deceptively reminiscent of The Strokes, until the song unravels into an exciting call and response that feels like a punchier follow-up to the band’s 2019 single “Just Like a Movie.” 

“Calling After Me” has an intoxicating pop sense about it, with a springy rhythm and catchy melody that sticks to your brain like freshly chewed bubblegum. As much as these first few tracks work to raise your heart rate, all this momentum comes to a grinding halt, slowing the tempo with the pared-down, reflective nature of “Bad Dream” and “A Warning.” 

The heart of this album lies in its ease of access; it’s easy to latch onto, composed of a characteristic breeziness that comes to fruition at the heart of the album. After the success of the band’s 2021 single “Quarterback,” Wallows devotees will undoubtedly lose their minds at the sound of “I Wouldn’t Mind,” seeing drummer and USC alum Preston’s first official album appearance taking lead vocals. Preston’s vocals have a charming bashfulness to their simplicity that pairs well with the flowing nature of the track’s instrumentals. 

Besides the bongos on “She’s an Actress” — which feel somewhat out of place on first listen and definitely take some getting used to — the album blossoms in its second half, a lush, expansive soundscape that feels like it was meant to fill a room. “You (Show Me Where My Days Went)” and “Canada” express this airiness as Minnette floats between Adam Levine-inspired “She Will Be Loved” high notes, to the conversational singing style Minnette previously adopted in hits like “Especially You.”

There’s a clear 2000s influence on this record. “Don’t You Think It’s Strange?” and other fast-paced tracks are reminiscent of a mid-2000s indie sensibility, alluding to the rhythm and guitar tone of bands like Phoenix, The Kooks and Vampire Weekend. “Going Under” has a 2010s psychedelic twang to it, presenting itself with the ethereal expanse of Melody’s Echo Chamber. It unfolds into its own interesting hybrid as Lemasters fills the space with pent-up discontent, completely letting go as the instrumentals swell — a nod to John Lennon’s straining cries in The Beatles’ “Oh! Darling.” 

Drawing the album to a close with its lighthearted tenderness, “Only Ecstasy” is a cinematic devotional fit to play out a coming-of-age movie. You can almost picture the scene, the film’s main characters driving under a watercolor sunset with the top down, hands waving in the wind as the harmony sings, “You are my only ecstasy / You are the only one for me.” 

Wine-drunk, middle-aged moms would fiend over “Only Ecstasy” if Chris Martin got ahold of it, and in 10 to 15 years, Wallows fans will raise their glasses to its swaying melodies, what could very well be their generational equivalent to Coldplay’s “Yellow.”

Wallows has undoubtedly found what works. It’s new but familiar, as authentic as they’ve sounded in a while. This coherence reflects the confidence that comes with finding your place and getting older. Having made music together for almost two decades, Wallows has grown with their music, and with “Model,” they’re not trying to be anything other than themselves.

In this way, an irony comes with the album’s namesake. A model is deemed perfect by nature, and though this album is far from infallible, it comes close to perfect in the way that it represents the band. “Model” adopts the lighthearted humanity Wallows has made a name off of, becoming a touchpoint for the roots of their sound. As the band embarks on their biggest tour to date — including stops at the Kia Forum and Madison Square Garden — “Model” is sure to make for quite the show, as fans across the globe will catch a glimpse of Wallows in full bloom.

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