Portland-by-way-of-Eugene, Oregon trio Floater deliver their best album to date with "Wake," their eighth studio album. Writing more sophisticated, well-crafted songs with each release, "Wake" (Typhon Records) delivers a twelve-track collection of melodic, pop-laden psychedelic guitar-rock decked out in chunky guitar riffs, primal drumming, and soaring vocals.
Consisting of front man/bassist Rob Wynia, guitarist Dave Amador, and drummer Pete Cornett, Floater's Northwest roots are rich and firmly planted, helping to account for the fact that they are one of the region's top-drawing acts, and continue to draw new crowds in each of their developing markets.
However, their strong roots are only a partial reason for their fan base. You need more than just luck. You need a constantly evolving sound that is both truly your own and always exciting to the tried and true and newcomers alike. And that is what "Wake" offers new and old fans.
"It would be very difficult for the same three guys to not be Floater somehow," says front man Rob Wynia, discussing the similarities and differences of Floater's previous releases with 'Wake.' "I'd say it's still Floater by definition, since we're Floater. It's different in that we really prefer to make every album its own thing. I think this, as a collection, it has a lot more high-energy songs and feels more 'live' than previous work. So much live performance has really geared us toward that kind of sound and feel."
Touring the songs extensively before recording them helped the band choose which songs would comprise "Wake." It also helped strengthen and energize the songs, as they had time to live and breath on the stage before being put to tape.
However, even with the songs gelling well before the band entered the studio, "Wake," the band's ninth studio album was still their most difficult album to make.
Between tours and finding time to schedule recording sessions, the band, now on their own Typhon Records, also had trouble financing the record.
But, with every obstacle comes a solution, and with many more years under their belts in the ever-changing music industry than most, Floater found a solution, playing more gigs to finance the record, and then taking time off from the road to finish making the album.
Doing most of the basic tracking the band's own studio, Floater found comfort in taking their time making the record.
"We broke up the tracking sessions on this so that we could record in our own practice studio, and it was so much more comfortable," recalls Wynia. "Just taking the time to get the note you want, the take you want, it was really relaxing. I'd like to always do it that way."
From the opening psychedelic swirls of "Concentrate," a number that any longtime Floater fan will instantly recognize as Floater through and through, roaring guitars, tribal-turned-rock drumming, and uncanny hooks, Floater makes it known that "Wake" is meant to be turned up and played loud.
"Cannonball," another song distinctively Floater, takes your average pop-rock song and turns it on its head, reeling you in on the verses with a runaway rock beat and plenty of shimmering melodies, before just grabbing you with the chorus' hook and having you sing along in sheer delight.
"Wondering," a song that some Floater fans may decry as just too "pop" is the album's instant single, a two-minute ditty that bounces and shakes just as much as it hits and pounds, a song that could take over radio waves with its memorable verses and unshakeable chorus. And, though it may not be typical Floater, it's still Floater and proves that even the most subversive rock bands can write songs that will stop you in your tracks with immediacy.
For those that think "Wondering" is an indication that "Wake" is Floater veering off into more purposely commercial territory, one listen to "Broken Toy" will prove that the band hasn't mellowed or lost its edge, it's hard-rock antics drenched in the band's cutting psychedelic and characteristic melodic twist.
"White Dress," the album's haunting, mid-tempo number will bring things down a bit, as Wynia sings, "Tina wore a white dress, she didn't know it was a funeral," delivering a spellbinding, tear-jerking tale of personal tragedy and a diminished future.
"Matadors," a quick candidate for an album single, finds Floater once again delivering blistering guitars and thundering drums coupled with hooks, melody, and an overwhelming sense of unrelenting pop-rock.
"You Taught Me" brings some danceable funk-rock into picture, while "Killing Time" proves that psychedelic rock can sometimes make for some of the best dance music.
Ending with "Let It Go," Floater doesn't give up for one minute and keeps the rock blistering until the last note.
After listening to "Wake," one may assume that there is a theme running through the album, something Wynia will both concur with, but wants to leave room for the listener to fully discover for him or herself.
"Well, I hear a story line to it, but I'm not sure if anyone else would. I'd rather leave people to find in it what they are looking for, so I'll just say perhaps."
Much like Floater, which has always been and meant different things to each listener, leaving room for their audience to take different things from the same song, so does the album title.
"I think we were all fond of the different feelings that everyone had about it," comments Wynia on why they named the album 'Wake.' "Some saw it as referring to a post-funeral, when you go over someone¹s life, and some saw it as waking up from slumber. Others saw it as the trail left behind in the water.
"Lyrically, there is a lot of material in these songs that is about coming out of different kinds of shells. Sleep, fear, and depression are all kinds of tombs and the transition out of those things is what we're hoping to put across. The energy, the excitement, the vitality of it."
When all was said and done, the band made the record they wanted to, on their terms.
"There is a sort of unashamed, just straight forward rock to these songs that will probably really bother people looking for shoegazer music," Wynia laughs, but with a serious tone to it. "If, on the other hand, you listen to it nice and loud and yell along in your car, I think you'll dig it."
The band's biggest surprise on this record?
"That only three guys could make that much noise!" he jokes.
The band's only goal now is to get on the road, get the record in front of people, and have people listen. Oh, and buy the record.