This week’s “On Mondays I listen to…” music review features Whatever the Weather and their newest (July 2016) release, Phonophobia. The five song EP acts as an antithesis to its own name, which means "...a fear of loud sounds, a fear of voices, or a fear of one's own voice." Whatever the Weather's Phonophobia EP is a melancholic diary on coincidental life.
(Photo by JLGfoto.)
Whatever the Weather is an indie/acoustic/alternative duo from Woodhaven, Michigan. Featuring Adan Garcia on guitar and vocals and Steve Sondys on bass and vocals, Whatever the Weather is an experienced band and fortunate friendship that has been creating music together since 2009.
I recently saw Whatever the Weather perform live at The Biddle Blend, a popular coffee shop and gaming lounge, in Wyandotte, MI. If you are ever in the area, I suggest you stop in and check out the place. The Biddle Blend has great live entertainment, as well as weekly classes, a pay to play board game lounge, and delicious coffee/chocolate cake.
As I watched Whatever the Weather play their set, the harmonizing voices, meshing lyrics, and charming charisma pulled me deeper into their mesmerizing songs.
Whatever the Weather's Phonophobia is full of swelling acoustic music and breathing vocals. While influences like Death Cab For Cutie, Ben Folds, and Toad the Wet Sprocket can be heard on the EP, the raw emotion and longing feelings empathized on the tracks is pure and obviously walked-in. Phonophobia was engineered by Steve Sholtes at Winding Road Recording & Post.
(Whatever the Weather - Phonophobia. Album Artwork by AppleNectar.)
1. Somewhere Down the Line - 03:08
"Somewhere Down the Line" is the first song on Whatever the Weather's Phonophobia. The track begins with rhythm acoustic guitar and Sondys' deep vocals, resonating with confidence and an "everything is going to be fine" vibe. Steady bass joins the mix, along with an electric rhythm guitar and Garcia's interlaced backing vocals.
At 01:00 a synthesizer melody is heard on the track, following the pattern of the song's chorus.
"Today, I woke up to apocalypse. I think I'm losing grip on reality."
The lyrics in this song are melancholic, but I love how relatable they are. Yeah, life sucks, but it'll be okay... "Somewhere Down the Line."
2. Childish - 01:59
"Childish" is one of my favorite songs on Phonophobia. The verses of the track hint a Toad the Wet Sprocket sound, opening with acoustic guitar and "hanging" lyrical lines. Garcia's vocals are smooth and tranquil as he sings of connection and satisfaction with oneself. "Childish" also includes gentle piano and a floating organ that grows in volume as the song builds. Although the song is less than two minutes long, I think that the track is one of the most profound on Phonophobia due to it's self-reflecting lyrics and simple yet brilliant instrumentation.
"Say I'm a cardboard cutout of self-destructive childhood me..."
3. Strangers / Nell - 06:14
"Stranger things have happened to us, stranger things have come across my mind. Stranger things will happen to us, stranger things will happen the next time around..."
Whatever the Weather's third track on Phonophobia begins with a repeated finger picking riff on acoustic guitar. Sondys' vocals take the lead for this track, but are quickly joined by Garcia's in a counter melody. While the vocal tracks grow more complex by weaving between each other, the guitar builds with rhythm strumming and bass accompaniment. At 01:25 the listener starts to hear more backing vocals join the mix, working as another instrument to fill the song's space. An atmosphere is created in the song space, twisting and twirling with a "round" of vocals and guitar. At 2:02, the "Strangers" part of track three appears to end and the song transitions into "Nell".
"Nell" opens with another riff on the guitar, this time less frantic than "Strangers" but still in a weaving fashion. Garcia directs "Nell" with the main vocals, but Sondys provides haunting backing vocals to round out the track. The listener hears a bit guitar color at 05:15 that allows the song to reach its peak. Sondys' voice takes over the main lyrics and Garcia croons emotion, which to my interpretation is a mix of sadness and relief.
"And you caused this Nell..."
4. Detective Robertson - 02:30
"Detective Robertson" is one of Whatever the Weather's more pop-y songs. The track starts with psychedelic layered guitar and a countering, solid bass line. The drums provide a pick up to the acoustic guitar and vocals.
The psychedelic guitar continues to provide color to the song with a bit of a reverse tape effect. Synthesizers are also added for occasional fills during the choruses. The psychedelic/pop vibe takes command at 02:12 with swelling reverse tape effect guitars, hazy synths, and primal howls.
5. Enough About My Hair - 06:05
"I'm growing out all my hair, to keep me warm when no one's there to comfort me. Now I get that feeling that we're toxic, burning holes in each other's arguments."
The bass opens the final song on Phonophobia. Thus far, the acoustic guitar has had a relatively clean tone on the EP. "Enough About My Hair" changes this up by adding a chorus effect. "Enough About My Hair" also shines a light on the strength of Garcia and Sondys as a duo. The listener can feel the trust within the band, especially when Whatever the Weather writes sections like 03:36 in "Enough About My Hair". There is aggression, pain, and frustration in the track, but it is kept from reaching chaos by the systematic taming of each others' roles.
"Now I've over stayed my invitation, somewhere inside of this conversation. And my hair is down to my shoulders, wisdom doesn't come from being older."
Whatever the Weather's Phonophobia is an acoustic/indie/perfectly-soothing-yet-perfectly-disturbing EP. I love how naturally Garcia's and Sondys' voices flow together. Phonophobia feels like a conversation to the listener. The songs are all thoughts that we have experienced before and it is the relatability of the songs that makes the EP so powerful.
If only we all were as eloquent as Whatever the Weather is with their lyrics.
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