Music Features

Merry-Go-Round’s Best Artist of 2023

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In this strange year of twists and turns, Wednesday’s heartfelt artistry somehow feels curiously in line with the uncertainty. The Asheville band, initially the solo project of Karly Hartzman, truly turned heads with 2021’s TWIN PLAGUES; its welcoming sounds are a far cry from any presumed folky sensibilities: intense, noisy walls of feedback, bolstered by the same melodic stiltedness of any revered Numero Group slowcore outfit. From that perspective, it seems like Wednesday is a band that prides themselves on abrasion. TWIN PLAGUES’ cover art depicts Hartzman standing alone behind a wreckage of cars. The color composition is slightly muted. It conjures erratic chaos through and through.

Yet, that introductory gut-punch is kind of a fake-out. So, too, is the artwork. Hartzman represents pastorally bringing order to that musical chaos. As the album plays out, those echoes of disarray morph into precious melodies with an alt-country flavor. Hartzman briefly dons the role of an Arcadian, only when her voice gracefully lies above the steel guitar twangs. It’s cliché to liken these chipper and, at times, languid moments to Pavement, but both bands share the same lackadaisical sloppiness that comes across as accidentally poignant. However, by the end of the album, the band unsuspectingly swirls back to their opening sonic corrosion. This is what makes Wednesday stand out: whether they’re appearing dissonant or harmonious, they switch between those forms when you least expect it.

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And that pattern is symbolic of what life has recently been like, especially in the realm of independent music. With the last bastion of a passionately-driven music market in peril, the future looks unknown for all musos. The pains and frustrations of uncertainty, but also the cautious optimism that the community would cling onto during this debacle, match the swinging emotional pendulum that defines Wednesday’s oeuvre. Reframing them in this manner, then, elicits an entirely different meaning to the band’s deserved flowers—outside of creating great music.

Wednesday’s continued presence in the indie zeitgeist makes sense. Their latest offering, 2023’s RAT SAW GOD, showcases their solidified idiosyncratic strengths and added grandeur. The heavy fuzz is denser, taking up a quarter of the album’s duration. Hartzman and her bandmates amp up their bucolic flair. Then, there’s “Chosen to Deserve,” a euphoric, country-leaning power pop barrage, and the album’s phenomenal centerpiece. With its pieced-together existential narrative similar to Phoebe Bridgers, it’s no wonder why Wednesday is applauded: a sense of security lives in these introspective journeys. You can search their lyrics and meanings for yourselves, but the fact that these impassioned ballads are rooted in reality is what keeps people returning to them. Not only that, but also the human and unforced curtailing between moods.

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That glowing beacon of light—the indisputable modern indie classic “Chosen to Deserve”—is fastened in the middle of RAT SAW GOD. Surrounding it are scatterings of guitar-driven vapor trails (“Hot Rotten Grass Smell” and “Bull Believer”) and unchanging musical despondency (“Formula One” and “What’s So Funny”). The closer is a concoction of both styles (“TV in the Gas Pump”). Contrary to how I opened this piece, Wednesday may actually appear to platform optimism, but beneath their vibrancy is melancholia and bleakness: “Suddenly, it’s a tragic story / But that’s what’s so funny,” says Hartzman, defeated, at the end of “What’s So Funny.” I feel that Wednesday’s temperamental tonality connects to all of us, even outside of music. We don’t know how a lot of things are going to play out, and perhaps we can only move into the coming year smiling, as a front for our caution. The fact Wednesday attracts so much acclaim, though, reveals that notion is ubiquitous. For that, they’re rightfully valued. 


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Dom Lepore
Dom Lepore is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. When he’s not writing, he’s tending to his record collection, listening to its eclectic sounds to let his imagination run wild.

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