Album of the Week: Wall of Eyes

Written by, Nicole Pottgen 

Welcome back to album of the week! This week we will be exploring the musical dreamscape of the latest release from experimental, prog-rock band, The Smile. This is Wall of Eyes. 

Released this past January, Wall of Eyes is The Smile’s second album and it further establishes their entrancing, off-the-wall sound. The trio in The Smile is composed of Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead, alongside Tom Skinner on drums. As expected, every exciting element that Yorke and Greenwood contribute to Radiohead are all elements that are heard in The Smile, with the addition of influences of jazz and art-rock. They once again create something transcendent on this album, with Greenwood amping up his wild guitar playing and Yorke leaning into his ghostly, high-pitched vocals; Wall of Eyes offers a constant push-and-pull of instrumentals and emotions.

The first track, “Wall of Eyes,” does a wonderful job of easing you into the album’s atmosphere. I think this song definitely serves as the sort of calm before the storm, with its slow acoustic progressions and eerie string arrangements. Yorke’s vocals simply float over the echoing instrumentals of the track, and these smooth, breathy high notes recur throughout the album. Everything unravels at the end of “Wall of Eyes” until the instrumentals are completely off-kilter, fading into the second track, “Teleharmonic,” another slow, dreamy song. 

By the third track, “Read the Room,”  the album starts to take a turn. After the hazy opening tracks, you are pulled into an immersive alternative rock experience with addicting melodies and Greenwood’s explosive guitar. These elements continue straight into “Under Our Pillows,” which sounds like something off of Radiohead’s In Rainbows, in terms of its noisiness and its stand-out rhythms. This song opens up into a super trance-like section in the middle and then proceeds to build and pull back until the almost deafening wall of sound abruptly ends the song.

Bringing you back into the lull, “Friend Of A Friend” and “I Quit” showcase a variety of intoxicating sounds in Yorke’s vocals, the cascading piano, and the orchestra. This is a moment of the album that is soft, free-flowing, and oozing with wonderful tension; once again contributing to the push-and-pull effect that carries through the project. 

“Bending Hectic” is an absolute emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end. The repeated out-of-tune guitar, unorthodox drum beats, and unsettling string arrangements all clash together eerily. On top of that, the wailing vocals have an angelic feel that contrasts the unhinged instrumentals beneath them. This song goes through multiple phases, it’s an intense journey of varying tones and feelings—and it leaves you utterly stunned. The song explores an internal struggle, a fight with oneself deciding to either let it all go completely or to continue pushing along. The song’s haunting chorus reads:

I’ve got these slings, I’ve got these arrows

I force myself to turn.

The loud, distorted instrumentals in the middle of the song lead into the last chorus, which absolutely wails. It’s a powerful ending and a complete shift in tone from the beginning of the song. It is the musical embodiment of mental turmoil, it is heartbreaking yet tremendously beautiful, and Yorke once again leaves you in a state of melancholic awe with just his voice alone.

The record ends on an uplifting note with “You Know Me!” The song is cosmic and freeing, it offers a sense of solace after the emotional frenzy of “Bending Hectic,” and leaves off with the similar slow eeriness that we hear at the beginning of the album. 

This album has been nothing less than a joy to experience, and I cannot recommend it enough. It’s unsettling, dreamy, loud, somber, and incredibly provoking. It’s chock full of excellent musicianship, lyricism, and so much intrigue. So listen, lose yourself, and beware of: the Wall of Eyes.

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