Home to half of My Bloody Valentine, Whipping Boy and more recently Just Mustard – Ireland has long punched above its weight when it comes to shoegaze. Galway’s 2020 breakout success NewDad are the next contenders to carry the torch of reverb drenched Irish music into Generation Z with the release of ‘Waves’, a six-track dream-pop EP.
It’s undeniable that NewDad are poised for commercial success – the nostalgia industrial complex has looked favourably upon ’90s indebted alt-rockers in recent years. Three of the EP’s singles have been added to the A list at BBC 6 Music, swelling already impressive streaming numbers and they’re soon to embark on a national tour.
That’s not to suggest however, that NewDad are undeserving of such accolades – with ‘Waves’, the four-piece present their well-formed brand of remarkably tight dream-pop that rarely meanders and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Drown kicks off with a Hookian bassline playfully bouncing off a steady four to the floor kick while vocalist Julie Dawson’s double tracked harmonies wrap the track in analogue warmth. While guitarist Sean O’Dowd commands attention with an artful and angular solo that peers out from behind a wall of feedback and reversed delay.
One of ‘Waves’ strengths is the ease with which Dawson presents picture-perfect snapshots of teenage life whilst maintaining a sense of distance that veers the lyricism away from the realm of melodrama. “While you were making up your mind, I lost mine,” she sings on Blue, a heartwrencher that explores the last days of an ill-fated relationship with an apathetic partner.
Producer Chris Ryan lends the EP a hi-fi sheen, delicately straddling the notoriously fine line between tasteful and totally washed-out reverb – a sonic balancing act that has proven to be a pitfall for many engineers approaching dream-pop. Ryan’s mixing is perhaps most commendable on the explosive chorus of I Don’t Recognise You – each instrument is given ample space to exist in what could very easily be an overcrowded stereo field.
Though less immediately grabbing than ‘Waves’ earlier earworms, the eponymous track (and the EP’s closer) is arguably the most compelling song in NewDad’s promising catalogue. A slow burn built around effective and intermittently complex percussion, calling American Football to mind. “And if you drag me down, I’ll drag you down too” are the final words Dawson delivers – bringing the EPs nautical themes full circle before a cathartic burst of instrumentation bids us adieu.
While a cynic may suggest that there is an over-saturation of up-and-comers pulling inspiration from the same sources as NewDad – ‘Waves’ puts the Galway group ahead of the pack through tight songwriting, clean production and a comfortable grasp of the second half of their dream-pop genre descriptor. Don’t be fooled by the Kevin Shields feel, there’s Max Martin melodies all over ‘Waves’.