Release Date: May 12, 2015
Record label: Captured Tracks
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Folk
When singer-songwriters seem to hide behind their instruments, avoiding eye contact but smiling coyly all the same, you’re left with the kind of music made by Juan Wauters. Born in Uruguay and now based in New York, he’s written a second album of ramshackle, lo-fi folk-pop that feels both apologetic and timidly knowing. The former Beets frontman’s simplistic, anecdotal lyrics and use of breathtakingly basic chord progressions situate the album firmly in safe, DIY-acoustic territory.
Juan Wauters can’t, and won’t, hide. He’ll slouch, he’ll sigh, he’ll whine, but he knew what he got into when he move to New York and decide that music had stopped evolving in 1971. The former Beets frontman is partying and playing like Paul Simon never made Graceland. But this striped down folky bash doesn’t have the same sort of hazy fuzz that the Beets owned that could obscure flaws.
Former Beets frontman Juan Wauters' second full-length Who Me? was recorded in two weeks in autumn 2014, and feels slightly more polished and cohesive than his solo debut, NAP: North American Poetry, which was recorded over the course of several sessions between 2010 and 2012. Like his debut, Who Me? finds Wauters continuing to hone his songwriting skills through Velvet Underground-inspired indie rock, which is more acoustic and folk-leaning than the garage rock of his previous band. Musically, his songs seem pleasant and easygoing, but his lyrics point toward uncertainty and self-doubt, with the brief "Misbehave" asking "why do I choose wrong?" Similarly, "I'm All Wrong" has a catchy, feel-good rhythm aided by handclaps, and the song even dissolves into applause at the end, but Wauters returns to the refrain "and I don't care if you know that I'm all wrong.
Juan Wauters’ sweet, unvarnished folk-rock comes from a forgotten New York, between the suburbanization and white flight of the 1950s and the impoverished 1970s, when it was enough for Simon & Garfunkel to visit the Central Park Zoo on the A-side of the single and the Queensboro Bridge on the B-side, when people’s hearts were alight with hope for a new baseball club called the Mets. His second album, Who Me?, features 13 songs, all of which are less than three minutes long and several of which are less than two, played on about as many chords. Most of them are arranged for acoustic guitar, electric bass, and other things that can be rehearsed in the living room without bothering the neighbors.
In a recent interview, Juan Wauters told Spin, “Now I’m aware that I have an audience and I want my audience to grow, so I’m a little bit more self-conscious about what I sing about, and also I think about what songs I want to show to people. Some songs are very personal, they’re like secrets, you know?” This statement captures the subtle metamorphosis that Wauters has undergone since the Beets—the band he co-founded with friend Jose Garcia in 2005—broke up in 2013. The Beets were a very good band, albeit one with a tendency to the superficial.
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