Friday, October 5, 2018

Well Wisher, This Is Fine, 2018

Album Review

Let's get one thing out of the way first. I loved dollys. Their well-crafted pop reminded me of some of my favorite bands like The Smiths, Belle & Sebastian, Juliana Hatfield, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Alvvays. As the band evolved and drummer Natalie Newbold took on the role of full-time lead singer, dollys' sound came into full focus. They were a great band, and they meant a lot to CoolDad Music. And that's all I'm going to say about that, because, with This Is Fine, Newbold (on guitar, vocals, and keys here) and Well Wisher (Lucas Dalakian on guitar, Lynsey Vandenburg on bass, and Anthony D’Arcangelo on drums) make their own, individual statement that acknowledges the past while taking a triumphant step into the future.

Opener "Believe" sets up a lot of what's going on thematically with This Is Fine. After the song crashes its way in on a hail of guitars, Newbold sings with both a sense of disappointment ("It's not your job to believe in me / But would it be so bad") and self-confidence ("I had a great time without you / On a Monday night in June").

"Sweet" begins as a quiet and, well, sweet love song before turning up the pop-punk volume. Even when you've got the strength and confidence to be your own person, having someone in your corner helps: "But things that seem so wrong / Won't be for long / It's so sweet now that you love me." This idea is echoed later on "Half Bad." "Now my room's on fire / But I'm left smiling / Thinking of you / It's not half bad."

"I Know Better" has been a staple of Well Wisher sets for a while now. It's a a wild, upbeat crowd-pleaser that again, prioritizes self-confidence over giving into external forces that would make you doubt yourself.

Everything on This Is Fine comes together on the fantastic "Right As Rain." The song comes just after the album's halfway point and is its literal and figurative centerpiece. The song chugs in on some early-aughts sounding guitar; and, even as Newbold deals with loud neighbors, a sick cat, and wondering where life is going, I think the declaration that "This is fine" and "certainly better than ok" is sincere. And that's a healthy place to be, focusing on the positives rather than those things that can accumulate to drive you down.

As Newbold sings, "You've got to want to save yourself" on "All My Love," it's clear -- given everything else we've heard on the record to this point -- that this is advice that's coming from experience.

Well Wisher -- who now feature Mike Linardi on drums -- worked with producer Erik Kase Romero on This Is Fine, and the collaboration has resulted in a stellar debut. This Is Fine is full of heart. It's loud and cathartic. It's the feeling of having gone through the darkness and worked through to the other side into the light.

This Is Fine is out now on 6131 Records. Well Wisher play a release show on Saturday, October 6th, at Asbury Park Brewery with help from Slingshot Dakota, ManDancing, and latewaves.

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