‘Razzmatazz’ by IDKHow [Album Review]

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It’s finally time!

After a very long time of being told that there would be an album and then having it be pushed back multiple times, we finally have the debut full-length album from I Don’t Know How But They Found Me.

I feel like there’s a whole lot of pressure on the album coming out, and for people like me who are big fans of Dallon Weekes and Ryan Seaman that want this album to be the best that it can be. I’m going to be honest, there was a part of me that was nervous that this album would not be everything I have been waiting for it to be. And I don’t think it necessarily met those expectations because they were absurd and weren’t meant to truly be upheld by an actual human being. However, what I did get was a really interesting album that had me smiling like a fool because I was so happy and so excited about the potential of this album while I was listening to it.

So enough being an obsessive fan, and let’s dig into what this album is.

Leave Me Alone

I’m not going to go into any details with this track since I have already reviewed ‘Leave Me Alone‘ back when it came out as the lead single of this album, so if you want to hear my thoughts on this song go back and read that review.

The basic version of the review is that I was a little unsure of it when I first listened to it, but it’s a great song, and it definitely makes me dance and sing along whenever I hear it. A great way to kick off the album to get people in a more upbeat mindset in terms of music with that same IDKHow juxtaposition of the darker lyrics over that music.

Mad IQs

This is the first new song on the album that wasn’t released beforehand.

I’m not going to say I don’t like this song because I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. However, I do feel like it’s one of the weaker songs on the album. It’s got a great bass and beat to it as this band always does, and it’s got some interesting lyrics in it, but overall I don’t see myself gravitating back to this song on the album. I’ll probably end up hearing it because I’ll listen to the album front to back, but I don’t think I’ll seek out the song on its own.

I will point out that Weekes does an interesting thing with his vocals that he usually doesn’t do, and that’s pulling up his chest voice.

So if someone wants to hit a higher note and they want to have some power to it they usually go into a mix, which is mixing their chest voice and their head voice to keep the power that you have in a chest voice while having the upper residence that you have of head voice. And you can pull up your chest voice so that you can hit a bit of a higher note than you usually would, but it’s hard to sustain that strain of pulling up.

Weekes usually flips into a head voice if he needs to hit a higher note because he has a really clear tone up in his head voice, and he’s clean at flipping from the chest or mixed voice into his head voice. He does it smoothly and quickly, so that’s usually the way that he goes with his vocals whereas on the bridge of this he pulls up his chest voice for it, which is a new tone for his voice.

Nobody Likes the Opening Band

This song has been out for a while, and I think it’s a great song to have for someone who was an opening band and taps into the cynical humour that IDKHow has.

Mainly what I want to talk about with this song is that I don’t understand why it’s the third track on the album.

Considering that it’s talking about the opening band, which is at the beginning of the concert, it seems like it should be the first song on the album if it’s going to be here. But I was willing to assume that there was some discussion as to why it should be the third track on this album. Musicians don’t just put songs in any order that they want on an album. Usually they put in some time to figure out exactly how they’re going to order things. But even tonally the song feels odd in its placement. The songs that bookend it have very different sounds to them compared to this track, so I don’t know why it’s here. I’d be interested to see what the band has to say about this particular ordering because I can’t for the life of me figure it out.

Still a really cute song and I always end up saying along to it.

New Invention

This is one of the singles that grew on me faster than some of the other ones. It just has a cool groove to it, and I found myself singing along really quickly.

I do want to take the time with this song to talk about the drums. I find that the more I hear from this band the more I’m impressed by the way that Ryan Seaman can use space around his drumming. It’s one thing to have a drumbeat that is consistent throughout the song and is keeping a consistent time. It’s another to know how to space out not only the main rhythm on the drums but also to change that tempo a little bit. There’s a great little build up during the chorus where the beat picks up and then cuts off entirely and then crashes back in.

It’s just a really interesting thing to listen to, and I find that a lot of the time the drums kind of get pushed into the back, and they’re not given a lot of attention even from a songwriting perspective.

From the Gallows

This is one of the first IDKHow songs where I’m really aware of the production.

They always have production elements because they like to put in samples and sound effects and what have you in their songs, but this was the first time when I was mesmerized by it. I love the slower beat and the way that it has all of the skips and glitches in the audio. I especially like the cassette sounds were the cassette slows down a little bit so the whole track warps before it picks back up to its normal tempo.

If I had a critique to make it would be that there isn’t a nice transition between the end of this song at the beginning of the next. I was expecting a smoother connect between those two tracks since the song kind of fades out, and I was expecting it to blend into the next song, which didn’t happen. This is a bit odd because there’s a point later in the album where there is a clean transition between two songs, so I don’t understand why that didn’t happen here. But that’s a nitpicky thing to be upset about.

Clusterhug

This is one of my favourite songs on this album.

Usually, when you get to the middle of an album it can be a bit slower because they’re bookending their not as good songs with the really good ones at the beginning and the end. However this album has some of my favourite tracks fall into the middle, and it makes for a nice crescendo for the whole thing.

I just love the full sound of the production and the brightness that comes with the song. The first time I heard it I was smiling so big like 20 seconds into the track. It’s just the kind of song that makes me want to sing loud in a car you know what I mean? A song I’m going to come back to more and more and learn all the words so that I can maybe do that someday.

Sugar Pills

I think this song is going to end up being my favourite of the album.

I’m a bit hesitant to say it right now because I know the singles better, so I tend to enjoy listening to those more because I can sing along, and I know a lot of the nuance already, but this song is so good. One of the songs were within the first few seconds my thought was, “okay David Bowie.”

I think this track has the best vocal performance from Weekes on the entire album. There’s something about the way that he’s able to switch between tonalities within even the same riff that is just amazing to me. There’s a couple of times where he runs up into a higher note, but by the time he gets to the top of that run he’s taking on a much more forward, raspier placement, which has a very 80s rock feel to it. But he has some great lower tones to his voice during this too.

It’s just a really fun song to listen to and to bop along too, and I think that the chaos of it is something that I am drawn to.

I especially love the wonky guitar solo. There’s just so many weird noises mixed in and that it’s just cool and interesting to listen to the mixture of production on that part. I think this is the song that I’m going to come back to the most from this album but give me a couple of weeks, and we’ll see.

Kiss Goodnight

This song has a much softer sound to it that I’m used to hearing from IDKHow, which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing.

I am a little bit interested in why this wasn’t used as one of the singles because it seems more radio-friendly in terms of there’s not as weird of a soundscape, and it sounds more like something that would be accessible to a larger audience of people, but I don’t know how concerned they are with being accessible to a bunch of people so who knows what happened.

This is also another instance with they are using dissonance between the main melody and another instrument layered in, and I love the eerie feeling to the strings that play off of the softer sound of this love song. It injects a lot of anxiety and worry that comes with an important relationship, and you want it to work and not lose that connection that’s important to you. It’s a nice narrative element to the song.

Lights Go Down

I like the descent into chaos and madness that is the song.

There are some great lyrical moments in it where Weekes is says something without actually saying, and it creates such a vivid image and feeling that it’s mesmerizing to try and pick up everything that he’s saying.

Mostly I like the buildup of all these different elements and layers that are throughout the song and they kind of all come together at the end. There’s also a bit of a dream feeling to the overall production that fits with that kind of the theme of losing oneself a little bit.

Need You Here

Another upbeat song which I quite like that we’re getting some more dynamics with this album. Also our first set of guest vocals, which I believe are Weekes’ daughter from what I was able to find in researching it.

I feel like in this song more than any other by IDKHow I’m very aware of Weekes as a songwriter because there are multiple elements in this song that remind me of other work that he’s done for other bands. The arpeggio on the piano reminds me of one of The Brobecks songs, and some vocal layering reminds me of some of his other songs before this band as well. I don’t know if he’s intentionally referencing past work because this is a song about being away from home because of his work and wishing that he could be with his family so it would make sense for him to intentionally nod to his previous writing styles as showing the history of him having this kind of career where he needs to leave home.

That or I have become obsessively aware of how he writes music, which is a far more worrying revelation.

Door

Do you know how sometimes you can get so used to a singer’s voice that you kind of forget how amazing they are? That’s how I feel when I listen to this song.

It’s the shortest song on the album, and yet every time I hear it I’m just taken aback by how beautiful Weekes’ vocals are. There’s a heartbreaking beauty to the way that he approaches the song that is captivating in a way that I wish this song was longer than a minute and a half.

It’s a simple little moment on the album, but I love that it made it, and I love that it’s not a throwaway song that got played a few times live and then we never get to hear about it again.

Razzmatazz

We finally made it to the last song on this album.

I wouldn’t say that this is one of my favourite songs on the whole album, but I do think it is a great ending track to the album. It sounds very different from anything else on this album, and I think that it’s good to have at the end because it creates a kind of transition. Especially being the title track of the album it feels like the whole of the album has been a journey towards this evolution in the sound. It also has a darker, more ominous tone to it that has me wondering what is next for the band as it fades away into the night.

I also like the little tape sound effect at the end where the end of the tape rolls up, and the music stops. Honestly, I thought that there would be more gimmicks like that on the album considering what they’re EP was like, but it has much cleaner production than I was expecting it to be.

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

So what are my final thoughts on this album?

While I don’t think it could have possibly lived up to my expectations, I did have a lot of fun listening to it. I feel like this band is one of those musical acts that grow on me a lot over time. Usually, I have to listen to a song enough times to pick out a lot of themes and hear the lyrics and the production to understand what I’m fully listening to.

More importantly, I still love this band, and I wish so badly that I could listen to them play live in person. And maybe that’ll happen someday, but at least for now, I have a full-length album that I can come back to with a bunch of really good songs.

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