Genre hybrids are inevitably home runs or noble failures. It’s a popular route for bands to take. Bringing off a collision of musical styles in such a way that it achieves critical mass and sticks in a listener’s memory bank isn’t easy. Pulling it off is more than having the necessary musical skills. It’s about making the right songwriting choices along the way and tailoring your presentation for maximum effect. PRETTY AWKWARD’s Get Weird hits that elusive target with a bullseye shot: It boasts eleven songs of chameleon-like musical magic that keep you guessing.
The opener “Hang Out” is a confluence of PRETTY AWKWARD’s pop and hip-hop influences. The latter manifest themselves largely through the drumming. It is loose, and relaxed, yet unwaveringly precise and establishes feel above any half-cocked notions of virtuosity. Bandleaders Nicholas Wiggins and Austin Held make excellent use of the studio for each of Get Weird’s songs and this serves as an excellent introduction to their methods. “Misfits” is one of the early high points of the release.
The second song comes from a familiar tradition. The long-standing trope in popular music of an artist labeling themselves as an outsider and uniting the audience under that banner has spawned innumerable songs. “Misfits” is a rousing addition to that tradition without ever laboring under its cliches. A big reason for that is because of their one-of-a-kind use of the language. PRETTY AWKWARD turns phrases in an individual way and Austin Held’s voice gives it a precocious spin.
This Alternative outfit’s “narrators” are naughty boys, without a doubt, and “Bad Habit” plays off mainstay elements of their songwriting. It has the same brimming boisterous attitude distinguishing their best songs. The percussion keeps the verses percolating and explodes the song’s potential with each refrain. “Castle Walls” amps up the intensity even more. It tricks listeners, however, with some early spartan sleight of hand as the initial verses take on a stripped-down sound before shattering the calm with its emphatic refrain. The clenched fist-in-the-air passion of the chorus stands out on the album.
“Woozy” is the album’s lead-off single and only a deaf listener will question why. The set-up is once again crucial to the tune’s ultimate success. PRETTY AWKWARD relaxes us with their laid-back thrust before hitting us full-on with the chorus. It’s a song that finds its direction fast though and never deviates. They find another peak moment with the track “Bored”. The song is anything but that, however, and they excel gradually dialing up the intensity until we crash into another one of the band’s expansive choruses.
They close the album with “Burn”. It’s a song with a bit of a split personality as it has a decidedly fatalistic bent mixed with an ardent refusal to let that attitude lay them low. PRETTY AWKWARD really gets a lot of mileage out of musical avowals to live life the way they see fit and damn the consequences – moreover, they make that mood entertaining as hell. Their album Get Weird does things its own way and never backs up an inch. It’s a thrilling ride from beginning to end.