EP Review: Inning, D.C. Party Machine

When Evan Frolov studied abroad in Germany during high school, he lived in a town called Inning. Despite knowing German and the locals knowing English, he found himself lacking someone close to speak with on a deeper level, as conversations with those around him tended to continuously hover on the surface, void of intimacy or vulnerability. Frustrated, he turned to music for solace, and found himself suddenly paying far more attention to verse than ever before, closely analyzing lyrical content as well as why they were especially effective in soothing his frustrations, and, in the case of the music he subjected himself to, they managed to do so without indulging in needless metaphor or existential themes.

Ironically, in doing this Frolov ended up having that deep, emotional conversation he craved with another so intensely with himself instead, leading to his own creative pursuits when he returned back home. While it was during this experience abroad where he truly realized the power of lyrical narrative – and what inspired him to begin crafting his own – it was ultimately the looming desire to make sense of his continued experiences as a college junior entering adulthood where he ultimately had the opportunity to bring this newfound skill into play. Through this fervid interaction of inspiration and intent – as well as a few friends to rehearse with – finally came Inning’s stunning debut EP, D.C. Party Machine.

After discussing the album with Frolov, which he explained was about self-identity, adulthood, and love at twenty, I had a strong feeling – especially after listening to the EP numerous times – that conveying the latter, this highly specific, self-titled subset of love “at twenty,” was the most crucial in this release, despite listing it last in the email. After all, the album itself is organized to simulate falling in love, touching on everything from locking eyes to wistful introspection after the fact, with each track representing a different, but incredibly specific aspect of the experiences in between. As far as sound goes, Frolov mentioned that he started inning with something particular in mind, something with the haziness and warmth of Beach House mixed with the lyrical directness of The National. While the songs on D.C.PM more or less tend to be what he initially envisioned, an incredibly unique aura takes over them at the same time, perhaps the result of Frolov letting more of his own emotions and thoughts bleed through into their lyrical narratives, rather than merely creating what he thought others might like to hear.

In this regard, the album begins with “D.C. Party Machine,” a quirky ballad on falling in love with yourself before falling in love with anyone else. Written after interning in Washington D.C., the track has Frolov slowly growing accustomed to working as a young adult, while at the same time going to parties in which he suddenly found himself having access. The heavy guitars, while minimal at the start, soon become lush and colorful as Frolov takes advantage of the latter half of his situation, exclaiming to no one in particular “I love D.C.!” after the rush of meeting someone that night. The guitars inflate along with his ego, then come down again with the bright, nostalgic solo that stretches towards the end, hopeful and youthful, but also with an overarching, unshakeable naivety. However, the best part of this album is the fact that Frolov is incredibly self-aware in his writing, and “Feels Like It Did” sounds like a warning to himself to not get carried away with infatuation so quickly. The textured guitars, with the same cadence and pacing as a pounding heartbeat, try to fight his hazy vocals anyways, but ultimately fall victim his internal psyche telling him he’s been down this path before. What results is beautiful tension, a flawless auditory representation of the head and the heart’s perpetual battle.

It is here where the album takes a turn in terms of sound. Whereas the first two tracks were minimal and punk-inspired, the last three take more after dream pop and shoegaze, as they touch on, according to Frolov, the “uncertainty and anxiety about love.” And true to form, with “Expensive Flights” everything suddenly becomes heavier, the instrumentals swirling into each other to create a thick, impenetrable fog of self-doubt. Though it is written in his ex-girlfriend’s perspective, it’s hard not to imagine Frolov feeling the same way, especially with the pressures and frustrations of maintaining a long distance relationship. Fittingly, it sounds overwhelming towards the bridge, as they remember all the specific things they like about each other but not having the means or immediate opportunity to express them. Amidst all the uncertainty, however, a phrase is repeated throughout, one that sticks out beautifully amidst all the noise: “I miss you like hell.” Closer “Philly Nice” is introspective and incredibly honest, as it follows Frolov coming to terms with people that have left, as well as the people he’s let go. He finds himself lamenting (“I’m afraid if I lose you/ I might lose a part of me too”) but never wallows – the instrumentals don’t let him, maintaining their composure. The overarching ego that reared its head at the start has dwindled to the size of a penny. He admits “I’ll always love you,” but in in a voice confident in his own ability to move on, to take what he’s learned from every failed relationship.

Inning is at their best, however, when Frolov completely and irrevocably gives into the power of his own vulnerability, and despite its brevity, it is for precisely this reason “Glow !” remains the magnum opus of D.C. Party Machine. A dream pop track in the purest sense, it’s warm and encapsulating, with enamored, luxurious swells of guitar that radiate upon each strum. It’s almost as if Frolov is singing from within a potent hallucination of his own doing, falling deeper and deeper into the dream-state with every specific detail he remembers about the one he’s enchanted with. He reassures this faceless, nameless entity: “even when you’re not around/ you still are here.” Though we know how it will inevitably end, there’s something soothing about being in this brief moment, reminded of what love, even infatuation, can be at its very best.

If you’re familiar at all with the poetry of William Blake, you’ll know that he was known for two collections – Songs of Innocence, and Songs of Experience. While I am aware this miiiight be an audacious reach, there was something specific about the pacing and organization of D.C. Party Machine that reminded me of some sort of amalgamation of the two. Taking the feelings of youth and following it up with the nature of emerging adulthood, Frolov, in his direct, yet impassioned writing style, has managed to not only capture their specific feelings and situations, but to do so in a way completely self-aware of what also has the potential to come next, almost as if, like Blake, he stands at a safe distance while making sense of everything before jumping back in again. Regardless of my own presumptuous literary comparisons, Inning is still a remarkably versatile, honest, and, most importantly, thoughtful musical project, housing an aura that can only grow more impenetrable as time goes on.

9.0/10

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photo courtesy of artist
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Battery Point – “Wonder”

Back in late June, California based quartet Battery Point released Star, the follow up EP to last year’s self-titled debut. Despite the album’s brevity, the three tracks it houses hold enough power, desire, and anguish to fill the space, evoking everything from the shoegaze, indie emo, and alternative rock. “Wish” and “Clear” both brood and glare on the surface due to its instrumentals, but also house a soft vulnerability, both from the intertwining of Jessica Severns’s bright, piercing vocals and Sergio Esparza’s deep, brooding tone. We can’t help but hear Smiths undertones in closer “Wonder,” perhaps due to the wonderful juxtaposition of Severns’s flinty voice and the fast, unrelenting drums and steady, expertly balanced guitars. Hopefully this will lead to something bigger from the quartet in the future – they clearly have much more to offer the world of indie rock.

 

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photo courtesy of artist

Alvvays – “Dreams Tonite”

Toronto quartet Alvvays have released the second stunning track from their upcoming sophomore album, following the already released “In Undertow,” which signaled a change in tone from their debut album – quieter, but housing a powerful, potent energy within. “Dreams Tonite” strengthens that theory with its hazy, delicate tone and gentle vocals from frontwoman Molly Rankin, as well as its simple, but emotional narrative. Heartfelt, sincere, and unpretentious, the track slowly and beautifully exudes waves of synth as it plays, the auditory equivalent to a bleeding heart that always seems to want what it can’t have. Rankin wearily asks “who starts a fire just to let it go out” and later, “who builds a wall just to let it fall down” and we can’t help but agree with her. It’s a moment of solidarity for those that seem to alternate between caring and thinking far too much, a ballad for the lovesick and weary.

Antisocialities will be released on September 8th.

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photo by Arden Wray

Alvvays – “In Undertow”

Back in 2014, Toronto-based indie quartet Alvvays released their self-titled debut album, its jaunty, complex tracks like the comical, yet heartfelt “Archie, Marry Me,” and the edgy, emotional “Party Police” flawlessly expressing their own quirky, colorful brand of dream pop laced with shoegaze, surf rock, and everything in between. Now, three years later, the group is back with the first single from their upcoming sophomore album Antisocialities. “In Undertow,” evocative of shoegaze, is definitely heavier and more delicate than their past work, the most different being the softer vocals from Molly Rankin. It’s mellow and simple, with a stoic tone that only expands as the track plays on.

Antisocialities will be released on September 8th.

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photo by Arden Wray