After forming in New Jersey in 2013, indie rockers Forth Wanderers make their Sub Pop debut five years later with Forth Wanderers. It's not their first LP, but given that singer Ava Trilling and guitarist Ben Guterl were still in high school when they started the group, and it's their first record with an outside producer (Cameron Konner), it offers their boldest and most consistent sound to date. Call it a best foot forward warranting an eponymous title. When writing the album, they honored a practice established at their inception in which Guterl writes kernels of songs and sends them to Trilling, who works on lyrics and vocal melodies, as they collaborate from separate locations. That was necessary here, as the two were attending colleges in different states. With a full rock five-piece to bring the songs to life in the studio, and clear '90s lo-fi and emo influences in play, the results are both muscular and agitated, even while Guterl's guitar lines and Trilling's melodies tend toward the immaculate. On "Nevermine," for instance, there are even passages where the serpentine vocal line is doubled by guitar, while everything else but an arpeggiated guitar drops out. Throughout the set, the vocals and lead guitar seem to duet (especially on "Taste" and "New Face"). When the full band is present, the precise melodic lines, crashing cymbals, and strummed distortion are all united by introspective, often candid lyrics delivered by distinctively angsty vocals. Even the musically effervescent "Not for Me" opens with the lyrics "I woke up with you/Put on my shoes/I left before you saw me...Before you could follow me." Despite the song's driving, soaring catchiness, all is not right, as reflected not only in the lyrics but in fleeting moments of dissonance and off-balance rhythms. Those tendencies are more obvious on the sparser "Be My Baby," a warped lullaby that fades out on a bent pitch. Altogether, it's a rock-solid set, notable for good songs as well as a distinctive if simultaneously throwback sound.
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AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson