If we take the slacker-hued lyricism of Only Sibling’s newest single “Native” at face value (“Turn the stage lights up/ Don’t bother listening/ The title means nothing”), one could probably argue that the New York outfit wants to make it known that they really “Don’t care about anything.” And truthfully, there’s little anxiety or second-guessing to be found on Get Well Soon, the quartet’s debut full-length album. Instead, their newest effort is a kaleidoscopic nod to the alt-grunge sonics of the 2010s, acting as a ten-track survey of various moods and aesthetics refracted through the lens of Side One Dummy, Run For Cover and Triple Crown Records alumni.
Opener “Screen Door” makes for a suitably bright and pleasant introduction. Drummer Alex Allen’s punchy beats sit firm and loud in the mix, suffused in a wash of blissful distortion from guitarists Jordan Torres and lead vocalist/guitarist Alex Basovskiy. In a curious move, the group decide to downshift from a mid-tempo rocker to slow-burner “Loser,” held together by twangy leads and bassist Damian LaRocco’s plodding thrum. It’s hardly exciting stuff, but it does go a long way to showcasing Only Sibling’s affinity for 90s radio-rock ephemera and their desire to re-tool a now-classic sound with a modern millennial sheen.
While Get Well Soon isn’t necessarily a bad album, or even one lacking in earnest performances, this particular style of late 2010s revivalism does come with baked-in hurdles. In cherry-picking flavors of indie, emo, shoegaze, and grunge, and splicing them together with the muscularity and directness of alternative rock, bands of this ilk are often too reliant on restrained delivery to help foster emotional tension. The catch then is keeping things exciting and engaging, while also simultaneously pulling back to let the atmosphere and vibe of a composition sink in.
Many of Only Sibling’s contemporaries, such as scene-staples like Title Fight, Balance and Composure, and Citizen, exemplified this approach by utilising strong narrative storytelling, urgent lyricism, and killer hooks to offset the softer, quieter moments of a record. But in the absence of those elements, the overall effect can be one of dispersion rather than immersion. At its weakest points, Side A of Get Well Soon is front-loaded with tracks that float right by the listener before they even have a chance to notice. Lead singles “And I Hate It” and “My Violet” feel like cutting room floor B-sides from Hyperview played at 1.5x speed, doing what they can with dime-stop loud-quiet dynamics and Basovskiy’s wistful vocals.
However, when album centrepiece and standout track “Mt Holly” arrives, Only Sibling finally pick up steam and hit upon a real sense of musical identity. Kicking off with simple rhythms and plaintive guitar leads, the track slowly builds to a powerful mid-point crescendo that gives way to driving riffs and Basovskiy’s screamed vocals. Inspired by a roadside accident the band witnessed while on tour, Basovskiy’s cathartic lyrics wrestle with themes of control, determinism, and permanence: “The motion/ One honest mistake/ The caution/ So carelessly thrown away/ The color/ A fevered display/ Of flashing/ Silhouetted in red.”
This impassioned delivery and sense of urgency continue throughout Side B of the record, manifested in the twinkly acoustic balladry of “Lead Paint,” the tongue-in-cheek, self-referential joy of “Native”, and the shimmering road-trip pop and catchy choruses of “Closest” and “Selfish.” If Only Sibling were at all concerned about potential charges of ‘imposter syndrome’ as self-confessed “loser rock” aficionados, then they sure don’t sound like it. While it’s still early days for the young quartet, Get Well Soon indicates that there’s plenty of promise here. And if they stick what to works, then the results might just become great.
Purchase Get Well Soon here.