Many garage indie bands dream of simply getting out of their parents’ basement. For Madison-based indie band Wook, they’re already well past that stage, having just released their ambitious first album: Glowstick Sidewalks, a culmination of years of work and practice.
“Glowstick Sidewalks has been in the studio for nearly three months,” bassist Mike Kuerschner said. “But the writing, the lyrics – we’ve been working on that for more than three years.”
“This album is a complete idea,” added vocalist and guitarist Jake Stottler. “Sonically, we wanted everything to be similar.”
The album was designed to show incredible range, shifting from traditional rock to pushing the boundaries of the synthesizer – often mirroring the journey of Wook themselves. Comprised of traditional rock elements, such as “The Dweller,” to progressive synth music, Glowstick Sidewalks is a bookend of sorts for Wook, who got their start as an independent band in Madison before branching out to the Midwest.
“The album shows how far we’ve come along as a band,” said drummer Andrew Stark.
Some of the tracks included within Glowstick Sidewalks trace their lineage back many years, sometimes even beyond Wook’s own history. For example, “Fire & Ice” – one of the tracks featured on the album – can trace its roots back to Stottler’s high school days. Unsurprisingly, he counts the song as one of his favorites.
“We brought it back for this album,” Stottler said. “It’s really refreshing to hear it again.”
Glowstick Sidewalks also takes a step back to indulge in classic rock. “The Dweller” is a prime example of how Wook not only sought to look forward, but to also pay tribute to their beginnings. The track is one of the earliest Wook efforts, and it shows; the entire track uses organic instruments only, a far cry from Wook’s more recent works and their heavy use of electronics and synthesizers.
“We wanted to keep in touch with our fans from the beginning,” Stottler said. “It shows our versatility as a band.”
However, the headliner for Glowstick Sidewalks is undoubtedly the third track in the album, “Galaxy,” which – at ten minutes long – is a whopper of a piece. As one of Wook’s most popular tracks, it will also sound familiar to their fans despite being five minutes shorter in the album version, a necessary compromise to maintain the flow of the album.
“Galaxy” is aptly named. The track takes listeners on a roller coaster ride through both highs and lows, striking the balance between an energetic opening riff which soon segues into the repeated lyrical motif of “you and me are in our galaxy,” before embarking on a ride seemingly through the Milky Way itself, effortlessly moving between calming, repeated arpeggio motifs and bursts of thumping supernovae.
Even among the album’s energetic and sometimes frenetic chords, there emerges a sort of relaxed aura that encapsulates the Glowstick Sidewalks listening experience. Perhaps it’s the soft, nearly jazzy instrumental that finds itself on many of the tracks – especially “The Dweller” and parts of “Don’t Rush” – or the vocals of Adam Lowe and Stottler, which, while nothing too special to write home about, do a good job of making the listener feel at ease with their assured manipulation of the melody and lyrics.
With their first album, Wook tries to capture their essence, their spirit. It’s an experiment that pushes the boundaries of what Wook is capable of. But at the same time, it also stands as a “thank you” to their fans, who’ve stood by them since their beginnings as just one of thousands of hopeful garage bands nationwide, jamming it up in their parents’ basements.
4 out of 5 stars