No matter the genre, songwriters, instruments, or lyrics, music can overwhelm the emotions and senses. It can soothe and enlighten or bring one to tears by relating a similar sadness. But usually, music isn’t specifically written to do that. Or more accurately, designed and built to relay a complete sensual overload. But that’s why shoegaze exists, and Nothing are the modern masters of the craft.
Dance on the Blacktop is just the latest for the band that formed in 2010 after founder/singer/guitarist Dominic Palermo’s release from prison. The group has been creating a unique sound combining shoegaze, dream pop, and post-rock. It combines the wall of sound fuzzy shoegaze guitars with the more composed and thoughtful heavy reverb dream pop sections. It creates this wonderful loud-soft-loud Pixies-style songwriting though the comparison would probably stop there. In every other facet, it’s so much closer to Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine.
Apart from the music, the lyrics are particularly shattering. Palermo’s lyrics are very reminiscent of Deafheaven: extremely deep and personal with a very open form. These lyrics are written in much the same way as people think. They are flashes of images and feelings and only really sometimes tell a story. But the related emotions are frequently universal. “You Wind Me Up” is the story of a half-hearted relationship and settling for the sake of it despite numerous problems. “Lay your dizzy head, my love/On my faithless shoulder/Be careful not to lean too hard/For I will surely falter.” You may not be able to relate to the exact feeling but it’s completely understandable and heartbreaking. This combined with the heavy fuzzed out guitars and slacker-style sung lyrics just make you feel the futility of the entire situation.
Nothing stands out on this record more than “The Carpenter’s Son.” Palermo wrote the song about his father and their relationship after he died a few years ago. Palermo has said that his father was a carpenter who struggled with addiction and anger while also fixing himself with religion and violently forcing it upon the family. Considering that animosity he feels toward his father, the entire track makes even more sense. The shimmering and reverb-laden guitar chords along with the spacious drumbeat have a very somber feeling. “I don’t wanna feel/Sun and warmth” followed by “I don’t wanna feel/Anymore” is completely emotionally jarring, as is this whole record. It’s hard to encompass that feeling in words and symbols, but this track did it more than any other.
The entirety of this album is an education in shoegaze. Heavy emotional and personal lyrics combined with big fuzzy guitars and spacey drums and bass makes for a deeply emotive record. There are few things in the music world like shoegaze records. Sure, every artist will make deeply personal records on occasion. They all overwhelm the senses and brains of listeners, but it’s usually combined with the signature sound of that artist. Shoegaze records are specifically designed to enrapture the audience in every way. Nothing is the current flagship of the genre, and Dance on the Blacktop will soon be known as a classic and one of the best of 2018.