If Now, Now’s 2012 release Threads was a little underappreciated it made up for it with a passionate reception by those who did hear it. The gentle fuzz, tight harmonies, and subtle electronics made for an endearing album bordering on the bedroom pop that would soon rise to prominence in indie circles. Roughly six years later the band have returned with Saved, a follow up that wastes no energy being sentimental for sounds of the past. When Threads came out, Now, Now functioned as a trio making surprisingly lush songs despite the minimal lineup and occasionally lo-fi tendencies. Since then, Jess Abbott has left the band, she now fronts Tancred, and the duo of KC Dalager and Brad Hale has ventured further into the realm of electronic alt-pop. Much further. On Saved the previous incarnations of the band exist as a sort of shadow, still visible but entirely out of focus.
The opening track serves as a good entrance for longtime fans with acoustic guitar and a sparse but propulsive drum beat welcoming listeners in. The guitar heavy sound of Now, Now’s past makes only brief appearances throughout, “AZ” and “Set It Free” follow the opener into more indie rock terrain. Connecting the album to the band’s previous output is an efficiency of arrangement and a taste for pop hooks, though that pop element has taken the dominant role. In fact, the heart-throbbing, vaguely ‘80s romance and longing of Saved actually bears more in common with Lorde than any of the band’s old indie rock contemporaries, save perhaps for Tegan and Sara whose career trajectory from harmonizing indie idols to dance pop heavyweights may have served as inspiration. Many of the tracks sound like outtakes or alternate cuts from Lorde’s critically acclaimed 2017 album Melodrama. The swooping dance pop of “Can’t Help Myself” takes no shortcuts around Melodrama lyricism as it opens “I was drinking in the daylight, I was looking for a way to tell you that without you I don’t feel right.” Closing track “Powder” features a rather Melodrama-esque airy ending section complete with a vocal triplet rhythm eerily reminiscent of Lorde. But Saved, rather than merely imitating current alt-pop, seems to take its inspiration from similar sources.
Throughout, Dalager’s vocals come with a swinging lilt characteristic of many of the ‘80s most memorable hooks while the electronic backings make generous use of the deep echoes of house music. Its notable as well that Dalager’s voice sit rather low in the mix by pop standards, blending in more than standing out as is more common in the world of indie and punk music. Now, Now also make efforts to thematically connect the album, repeatedly turning to the subject of driving (“AZ,” “Know Me,” “Drive”). While it does draw comparisons to the thematic aspects of Threads, which made use of repeated musical motifs and lyrical ideas to greater effect, it’s still an appreciated reward for repeated listens and deeper consideration. In other ways, the polished synth pop of Saved lacks some of the band’s previous zeal and originality. The decidedly mid-to-slow tempo pop rarely reaches the same effortless buoyancy that Threads achieved with the electronics heavy arrangements lacking dynamics in exchange for immediate accessibility. Likewise, the synthesizers tend toward more common tones, but pop as a musical genre thrives for its mastery of the things that appeal to listeners, to expect bold innovations would be impractical. What Now, Now have done with Saved is transition their sound to one of more immediate and accessible means.