For many fans of Now, Now like myself, Threads is a stand-alone album with significant emotional attachment, something that cannot be compared to or beaten by future releases. But after such a long wait, it feels necessary to examine the distance the band has covered in their sound, what they're exploring today, and if it's as successful as the last album.
Now, Now has fully embraced indie pop with Saved, a strong departure from Threads' lo-fi, alternative and indie rock influences. There's nothing like the epic ending of "Magnet" on this release, no heavy jams like those of "Thread" or emotional bedroom rock sessions of "But I Do." Instead, "SGL" announces Now, Now 2.0, with Dalager's same scratchy, subdued vocals embedded in bright, upbeat pop, catchy indie rock choruses, and songs about love that was young, dumb and worth it. Yet there's nothing cheesy, Top-40, or unoriginal about it. It's indie pop and rock in the style of Dalager and Hale, six years older, wiser and wanting it all.
They tune it down for "Can't Help Myself," letting the atmosphere drive the moment, the message. Again, they take it to a higher level, speaking of "a sad dream / it's a sad song / to remind me / but I'm singing along." It's a meditation on the difficulty of over getting over someone, the frustration of overthinking things, accepting the future that might not be how you imagined it. Three songs in, it confirms the new sound and direction the duo is headed in, setting an expectation that there will be more moody grooves like this one as well as upbeat pop tunes in the mix. So I find it hard to accept "Arizona," a slower song that shuffles along in comparison to its predecessors. It hints at some elements of Threads, but with a cleaner, upgraded sound. Yet it just doesn't click quite right with its companions and I end up skipping it often, moving on to "Windows."
Then somehow seamlessly, "Yours" jumps back into the mix. More in line with "SGL" and "MJ," it connects the initial vibe of the album halfway through and lights everything up. It's the perfect song to blare with the windows down in summer, dance to at home, or put on a mixtape. Mix CD. Thumb drive. Spotify playlist...?
It's at this point where I wonder about the band's musical goals, and they start to lose me. I hate to say anything bad about this band, but "Saved" is like a worse, less exciting version of "Holy Water," and I'm pretty sure I'm missing the point of "Powder." But "Knowme" is the underdog of the album, hidden toward the end but full of life and curiosity. It explores the edges of Now, Now's sound in mixing electronics with pop hooks, all while maintaining the typical Dalager lyrics of desire and longing for a girl we will never know. It speaks to me on a level that the flashier singles can't reach, mentioning off-hand, "and it's sad that I still care at all." I find "Drive" to be the true ballad of the album, slow and epic on purpose. Then while "Set It Free" is a great tune, somehow it feels washed out, something is missing at the heart of it. One of the defining traits of Now, Now's music is that for all its new pop glory, it's not shallow in any way. Yet this track feels too close to a typical radio chart, a song someone wrote for another person to perform. So close to the end of the LP, it gives a foreign feel to an otherwise intimate and personal journey.