J. Wang has played in a lot of bands: Dan Padilla, Tiltwheel, Altaira, and Shallow Cuts, to name a few. In other words, he’s an active musician and when his other bands broke up, or went on hiatus, or live too far away – throw in a year-plus pandemic -- well, a creator’s gotta create. Come Closer actually kicked off well before the pandemic changed life, being roughly half-complete before Wang went into isolation, holing up in the back room of his house in San Diego and learning about self-production, with help from friends old (Tiltwheel) and new (Pinback) along the way.
First and foremost, this is Wang’s project. It’s earnest and personal, just like you’d expect. To be frank, his vocals have always had that sense, whatever band he was in, but this time it’s under the spotlight a little bit more. His voice has a modest and personable tone that makes you feel like you already know him when you hear it. It’s soft, yet ragged; soothing punk rock. It’s also working-class music. I’m surprised it takes until song 10 for a reference to the 40-hour work week (though we get some guitar that sounds like Jon Mellencamp in “Mayday”).
While Come Closer is a new project, its songwriting fits well with his previous work. It’s defined by bright guitar tones that build to emotional choruses. Come Closer varies, though, in instrumentation and pacing. The songs are often mid-tempo melodic DIY punk with that gruff edge. But, just as often, they’ll introduce an acoustic guitar or heartfelt and personal observation. There’s more variance and while I said gruff a second ago, I don’t mean the shout-‘til-you’re-hoarse variety. While some punk is meant for circle pits, Come Closer is more suited for an evening on the porch, drinking a High Life near friends. It’s simultaneously emotional and contemplative, but with a seething underbelly. It feels cool and collected, but when you listen closely you observe the complex pain and beauty of modern life. It’s like that feeling after you take a deep breath and hold it, followed a calm, timeless moment as you exhale – knowing another wave is coming at you.
Early orders come with a zine that’s well worth it, explaining the full story of the record, its production, lyrics and more.
7.7 / 10
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Posted March 6, 2021, 1:14 p.m.
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