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Album of the Month: Wednesday - Rat Saw God

Life usually exists in your memory as a collection of big moments, but what can sometimes be more captivating looking back (or alternatively, overlooked), are the smaller things, passing observations and little vignettes that make up our day to day. Collecting those builds a portrait of place, of time, and can often reveal greater truths or realizations underneath. Karly Hartzman of the band Wednesday is a gatherer of these kinds of moments, crafting in her work an image of the American South, from the eyes and experiences of herself and her peers, into the group’s latest album, Rat Saw God.

The band cuts a musical path through noisy shoegaze guitars and the heart of country music; the sounds of the South run deep through Wednesday’s music, from Hartzman’s twangy vocals to the prominent steel guitar of Xandy Chelmis. The presence of that instrument I think perfectly crystallizes the band’s combination sound, with Chelmis’ playing running the gamut between its usual gentle swells, to soaring squalls that fly high above the group’s sound. The band establishes an intensity immediately with the short “Hot Rotten Grass Smell,” then boldly launches into the album’s longest track, “Bull Believer,” a sprawling arc of bull fights, addiction struggle, and a cathartic Mortal Kombat-aided conclusion, where the fighting video game’s iconic line “finish him” evolves from soft refrain to guttural scream. The imagery in the song is both cryptic and specific, little details crystal clear but the whole picture a little more guarded, more personal. In more straightforward numbers, “Chosen To Deserve” is a cataloging of Hartzman’s checkered North Carolina youth, an honesty-fueled ode for her partner (and bandmate) Jake Lenderman. Through cowboy chords and recounting teenage experiences with alcohol, sex, and sneaking out, she owns her past and is thankful she’s found someone to accept her for her whole self, from her best stories to her worst. Lenderman, who you may know otherwise as MJ Lenderman, is another of the band’s secret weapons with his excellent guitar playing; tune into the end of the Velvet Underground-esque “Turkey Vultures” for an excellent feedback-filled solo faceoff between him and Chelmis’s lap steel.

“Bath County” is another fine example of the worlds Hartzman and co. build in their songs. The track depicts a trip to Lenderman’s mother’s hometown in Virginia, flipping imagery between a diversion to Dollywood and witnessing an overdose in a gym parking lot. A Drive-By Truckers shout-out near the song’s end is a prime example of the lineage the band has now earned their place in (quite literally, from being longtime fans of the band into playing opening slots for them within the past year), as a band illustrating a life and territory not often shown in mainstream indie rock. The band’s homebase of Asheville may have become a hot spot for coastal expats in recent years, but there’s no mistaking Wednesday is born and raised in the North Carolina mountains, and through Rat Saw God brings their corner of the world to life through evocative memory and confident performances. Wednesday’s big break has arrived through this new album, and my best advice would be to catch them live now, while their star’s on the rise.

You can receive a copy of this album, and support WYSO, your home for music discovery, public service journalism and so much more, by making a contribution today.

Evan Miller is a percussionist, lover of sound, and is probably buying too many cassette tapes online right now. Evan got his start in radio in 2012 at WWSU at Wright State University, where he was studying percussion performance. He followed through with both endeavors and eventually landed a lucrative dual career playing experimental music at home and abroad, and broadcasting those sounds to unsuspecting listeners Sunday nights on The Outside. Maintaining a connection to normal music, Evan also plays drums in bands around the area, and hosts WYSO's Midday Music show. When not doing something music-related, Evan is most likely listening to podcasts or watching food videos at home with his cat.