Day Wave

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Pastlife Review

by Timothy Monger

Bay Area musician Jackson Phillips earned plenty of buzz in the mid-2010s with his breezy bedroom pop project Day Wave. A pleasing blend of homemade indie pop with layers of light shoegaze and dream pop, Phillips issued a couple of well-received EPs before making his full-length debut on 2017's Harvest-issued The Days We Had. After a five-year gap, Day Wave returns, this time on the PIAS label, with Pastlife, a wistful, low-key collection that more or less picks up right where his debut left off. Like so many musicians riding a bit of hard-won momentum, Phillips suddenly found his career stalled by the global pandemic. Already a contemplative songwriter, he spent much of the lockdown placing his life and career under the microscope, making music with a deeply reflective and often nostalgic air. But rather than sink into a navel-gazing mire, he also challenged himself to stay present, engaging with fans on the live-streaming platform Twitch, which he used to broadcast the creation of several of his new songs. This mixture of self-examination and yearning for social connection is at the heart of Pastlife's ten tracks. Over a repeating two-chord melodic hook, Phillips applies a pervading sense of existential ennui to "See You When the End Is Near," a song that features a guest verse from Cleveland's KennyHoopla. Other tracks like the percussive title cut and the acoustic "Great Expectations" fuse themes of loss and loneliness with a calm tranquility. Despite a handful of pretty melodies and a yawning sense of melancholia, Pastlife is rather unassuming, passing by in an affable 30 minutes of chiming guitars, burbling synths, and hushed introspection. If anything, it is a little smaller in scope than Day Wave's earlier releases, though painted with the same palette of sounds and moods.

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