Review: Turnover's 'Altogether' moves them from punk-rock to vaporwave

Categories:  Music    The Arts
Friday, November 15th, 2019 at 11:12 AM
Review: Turnover's 'Altogether' moves them from punk-rock to vaporwave by Evan Donovan

Since their debut in 2009, Turnover has become a band with many faces. On their freshman release, “Magnolia,” they were pop-punk/emo titans, playing alongside bands like Citizen. On their second album, “Peripheral Vision,” they shed their emo skin and focused on writing dream-pop songs. Even though they lost much of their punk-rock bravado during this period, Turnover was still an incredibly emotional band.

This scattered progression has led them to an unusual place in 2019. At its core, “Altogether” is unmistakably a Turnover album. Austin Getz’s pitch-perfect, smooth vocals crest every track, for one. However, in terms of tone and direction, this newest release makes some fascinating mistakes.

“Altogether” sounds like a parody of ’80s shopping mall music. Sometime during the early 2010s, a trend emerged in indie circles wherein artists sampled songs reminiscent of ’80s and ’90s consumer culture, while then distorting them to hell. This trend became known as vaporwave. This release: very similar to vaporwave.

In many respects, this stylistic decision underscores the band’s songwriting strengths. Superb bass lines swell in the temperate spaces of nearly every song. But the composition is also painfully vanilla and often unremarkable. For this reason, I find it hard to recommend venturing past the first three songs.

The first track, “Still in Motion,” opens with a curious jazz section, before breaking character and branching out into a proper pop track. The song progresses quite naturally and features the best chorus on the album.

“Much After Feeling,” meanwhile, generates an exceptional amount of kinetic energy. There are many moving parts here, and all of them feel welcome — from the staccato guitar on the intro, to the ascending legato synthesizers throughout the track.

Next, “Parties” is essentially a song about being bored. Fittingly, the vocal delivery and lyrics on this track are equally tiresome. Quirky composition and a satisfying outro save it from being a complete flop.

The remaining tracks stand out for being completely underwhelming. “Ceramic Sky” is woefully incomplete, clocking in at under 2 minutes. Under normal circumstances such a short track time wouldn’t be a problem. But here, Getz performs incoherent slam poetry over the Panera Bread lobby music.

Other tracks are just so uninteresting that it’s a waste of time trying to describe them. “Sending Me Right Back” tries to divert listener expectations by adding some wonky sounding tones to the instrumentation. The most I can say for this song is that it made me slightly uncomfortable — the messy arrangement makes it feel especially stagnant. It’s not terrible, but it’s not good either.

The final song, “Temporary Love,” inspires no emotion at all. It might as well be called “lo-fi beats to chill and study to”; it easily blends in with the countless number of YouTube videos of similar names made by teenagers.

Despite my negativity, I didn’t altogether hate “Altogether.” In taking the pseudo-vaporwave approach to songwriting, Turnover had two options: use this template to create something meaningful and original, or, use it as a crutch to produce run-of-the-mill, boring pop-music. Unfortunately, they chose the latter. “Altogether” is good background music, but it’s also gimmicky, trite and lackluster in its presentation.

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