Released: February 22, 2019
Los Angeles’ FEELS are creating disruption by manipulating pre-established musical structures.
Sunny California has produced and fostered some core counter-culture styles in recent musical history such as surf rock, garage punk, pop punk, and slacker rock. Bands like The Germs, WAVVVES and Bad Religion have made tracks scoring California life (at least according to my media exposure of the place).
On top of a rich musical history, the coastal state is also home to the United State’s fourth-highest income inequality rates and a skyrocketing homeless population. Disillusioned and hoping for a change they know probably isn’t going to come, Post Earth is FEELS using the sounds which have become part of the collective consciousness to question the state of the consciousness itself.
The album’s title track, ‘Post Earth,’ is a five-minute ode to the dangers of capitalism, narrating a dystopia “when the system fails” and “the one percent” begin their “new life on Mars.” This feeling of hopelessness is consistent throughout the album.
“It’s crazy being alive today” shouts FEELS in the album’s fourth track ‘Find A Way,’ which uses shouted vocals and fast rhythms to establish a snappy and classic punk feeling, a genre historically questioning establishments (but is now being questioned as misguided and misogynistic). But when the song slips into a post-punk almost surfy style bridge, the song’s drive fades as fast as it appears and FEELS proves the complex emotions they’re feeling about our society surpasses the simple and forceful anger of punk.
Instrumentation becomes sparse and the rhythm section stops pushing and starts drifting, guitars are lined with reverb and chords hang unresolved, building tension. One minute ago FEELS were angry but now they’re tense, uncertain, not knowing what to do with these feelings. The bridge builds slowly into the outro where vocalists Laena Geronimo and Shannon Lay shout “Now I wonder if we will find a way,” punching each word with anger made more hopeless and complex by the song’s breakdown.
FEELS uses genre transitions effectively, knowing how to use the mood and context of a genre to make a point.
For the most part, FEELS music is rhythmically steadfast. Slow drumming and bass lines dawdling with intent creates strong grooves and provides their music with a feeling of perpetual movement, accentuated with sporadic and impulsive guitars which intuitively call, respond, and tango together.
This combination of steady movement with sporadic interventions makes me feel like I’m driving at a steady speed down a highway in a shoddy van. Occasionally obstacles fly in my direction, sometimes steam pops out from of the bonnet but I just keep driving as my van falls apart. Maybe that van is the system that FEELS is questioning? Either way, I have no choice but to enjoy the ride.
“Just give me a fucking cigarette” shouts FEELS.
FEELS have proven their ability to sculpt cultural criticism out of blunt lyricism and accessible sounds. If you reached in and isolated any individual section from Post Earth, you would find FEELS not a particularly unique sounding band, but the way these sections are stitched together is a well-crafted way of questioning the establishments that the sounds sit within.