Avoid The Mess is a remote collaboration between Jamey Cummins of Austin, Texas and Tony Logan of Iowa City, Iowa. They originally played together in the indie rock band Maylane and have several Bandcamp releases, playing everything from straight rock to vintage jazz.
They describe Avoid The Mess as “an indie rock album dripping in ’90s nostalgia! Lots of layered guitars and keyboards.” Their influences range from “indie shoegaze, alternative rock and quirky pop culture references.” Most tracks were built instrumentally using Garage Band with Cummins laying down vocals at the end. Without credits, it’s impossible for me to know who’s playing what, especially as Garage Band’s samples can be quite realistic. I will say the vocals are more than serviceable (though bathed in heavy reverb) and the crunchy guitars are excellent.
Lyrically, Almost August say they never take themselves too seriously - even stating that their words cover everything “from video games to video games” - but they also want the listener to feel something. Mixing and mastering were overseen by Austin Sister at Eastside Music Studios in Austin after the original tracks were copied to Pro Tools. The boys had access to “a plethora of great compressors, pre amps, reverb units, etc.!” Though the overall sound feels heavily compressed, the instruments and songs usually share the sonic space nicely, though sometimes leaning toward overload.
“Altered” opens the album in a deliberately downbeat mode, sounding both retro and modern simultaneously. Vocals are spread across the tracks like syrup, blending nicely with the music but hard to decipher. The guitar is brittle and distorted but equally pleasing.
The upbeat “Dead End Street” feels like a hit single and has a kinetic, poppin’ video on youtube with fast motion time-lapse highways, skyscapes, crowds and even some “Tron”-like visuals; I love the 90’s style jangly guitar on this one. “Warmer” is jam-packed with Smashing Pumpkins-style fuzz riffs with an aggressive rocking beat.
“Flies Have Conquered Flypaper” (winner for best title!) is a mid-tempo rocker with a beautifully constructed major-to-minor chord scheme and gorgeous stacked harmonies. “Trash Panda” is a clever high energy rocker with a stutter-y beat and wall-to-wall lyrics sung quickly and sardonically. Though fun, the clarity of the instruments here suffers a bit.
“Always Hallways” (another great title) slows things down for a contemplative, spooky song about dreams and nightmares, the kind where you’re late for work, school or basically life. “Another dream in which I’m running and I get nowhere / Another moment and I’ll have it figured out, I swear / I’m in this building like a school or maybe it’s a mall / I’m always late, I’m always last, I’m always in this hall.” Twisted and creepy piano breaks adorn this quickly-paced track, if again overloaded in spots.
“Inbetween” channels Billy Corgan in the chorus vocal sections. All the elements seem fine here, but somehow don’t mesh quite as well as in previous songs. Maybe just a bit too busy? “Ant Zelda” is a fun (and funny) tune in the tradition of the Monkees “Auntie Grizelda.” “Ant Zelda has a hairy back / if the kids don’t do what she says / Smack!” A shorter tune, just long enough to make the point.
“In The Sun” has a great driving fuzz riff worthy of Sugar, or (dare I say it) Smashing Pumpkins, and is one of my favorites. Cummings’ vocal puts me in mind of singer/songwriter Paul Williams, a comparison I’m sure he’ll find puzzling. Glorious circular lead break toward the end.
Appropriately titled, “The Bottom Drops Out” concludes the album. “We’re going out in style” Cummins sings, as their guitars slam and wail in manic abandon with an awesome lead guitar section and a surprising piano and birdie conclusion.
Though I really liked most of these songs, I’m on the fence about whether Almost August pushed some of them too hard in terms of the mastering. In my mind’s eye, I kept seeing a waveform that's a total block of sound without any peaks and valleys, but that may be exactly what they wanted. The riffs and melodies are certainly there, even if the words are sometimes hard to catch, so I’d call this a Win. Finally, I gotta compliment their weird and interesting cover photo of a pathetic ice cream stand beside a telephone pole, which somehow captures the music quite well.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook