By Zach Collier
Static Waves is gaining a strong following. Listen to their Debut EP and you’ll understand why. Static Waves released their eponymous EP in 2014. Only about 20 minutes long, they’ve managed to create a polished final product that accomplishes a lot in a short amount of time.
Right off the bat, we’ll let you know that the Static Waves EP requires a solid pair of headphones or speakers to really be appreciated. There’s a lot of subtle nuance – especially with the guitar effects and synth flourishes – that deserves to be heard. You can hear these touches in a standard pair of earbuds or on some laptop speakers just fine, but there are a few moments of sheer genius that shine brighter on higher quality systems.
That being said, it should be obvious that Static Waves’ biggest strength lies in arrangement. No ten second stretch of music is identical to another. “Prisoners” is a prime example of their ability to craft an ear worm. By the time you reach the thirty second mark you’ve already heard a glitchy track filter, an exposed guitar riff, a light synth pad, a constantly shifting synth lead, and a booming kick drum that begins a high octane 16th note dance beat after a huge fill. Jesse Williams’ vocals are smooth, but contain enough character to keep things interesting. He has a few nice falsetto slips in this song that really make it great. Austin Cross, the lead guitarist, unleashes a furious guitar solo that transitions to a wonderful half time shift. You can definitely tell he’s been playing for fourteen years.  The song closes with a very Killers-esque ending, landing on a minor sixth instead of the root.
“Pull Me Closer” is another stand-out track. Written by Austin Cross, this track relies heavily on the synth expertise of Justin Woods to build the shimmering atmosphere. Cross’s guitar work on this track is surprisingly subdued overall, which really makes his funky riffing in the chorus pop. He gets proper recognition in a solo section after the second chorus, which is wonderfully bright. The drums in this song are absolutely huge, with booming, reverby toms that scream “PHIL COLLINS!” every time they’re hit. The wide stereo pan on the drums forces your attention away from the rest of the song every time they come in – and they deserve every bit of that attention.
The only issue I can find with this EP is that Static Waves is so good at building atmosphere that, like an actual planetary atmosphere, you eventually take it for granted and forget that it’s there. This is particularly apparent on “Love Shot Eyes.” The guitars in this song should be sledge hammers, but instead they’re paintbrushes. The overabundance of reverb takes the edge off, and the rhythmic parts don’t cut through like they should. Instead, they blend in with the rest of the synth. Moments of brilliant arrangement like 1:10 seconds fall flat. Which is a shame, because this song could have been just as good as “Prisoners.”
“Vandalize” opens with some great bass work from Cade Tueller. This song is super effects heavy – full of reverb, delay, and reverse engineered guitar swells. The guitar work, once again, is masterfully done. Austin Cross really has a knack for writing great parts. Vocally, there’s some clever parallel scoring. When Jesse Williams sings, “We move in slow motion,” his notes become longer and more drawn out. It made me chuckle in appreciation.
“Heartalk” runs into many of the similar issues that “Love Shot Eyes” does. The guitar and bass rhythms in the verses practically BEG for space, but even though they hit the notes hard and immediately mute them, the space is still filled with delay and reverb. The issues on this track are further compounded by Williams’ lack of vocal range. The melody here is surprisingly static, rarely changing registers. The whole song kind of plugs along formulaically. You can tell that care went in to writing this, but after 4 tracks of sugary sweetness, my ears were worn out. This track didn’t do much for me.
“Crush” features Eric Robertson of Pleasant Pictures, known for his Mindy Gledhill remixes, his work on “In the Mood” by Mimi Knowles, “Sherlock” by Hive Riot. Robertson produced the entire Static Waves EP, but he gets full featured artist billing on this track for his extensive work. “Crush” is delicate and fun. It’s completely different from everything else on the EP. While not the most climactic finale, it’s pleasant (forgive the pun) and is every bit as good as anything Swimming With Dolphins put out.
Overall, this album is a major success. This band is doing something right. This is one of the best albums in Provo right now. Listen to their debut EP here. You can also listen to “Prisoners” below.