by Chris Hatch
Midwestern guitar band, Disq, make noisy, Parquet Courts-style slabs of snarky post-punk. They also make dreamy, sparkling acoustic pop. They make sprawling, shifting, trippy indie-rock. They make sweet little ballads, angry, spiky grunge, and taut, bouncy experimental tracks. And on Collector, crucially, they make it really, really well.
The threads of the band first came together on 2016’s Disq I album – a self-recorded Bandcamp release that saw songwriting duo Isaac deBroux-Slone and Raina Bock tease together a varied, wide-ranging set of songs that hinted at a potential beyond their years. The mini-album had a natural feel – like the duo had been writing music for years, and none of it was forced (there’s a reason for that, Bock and deBroux-Slone have known each other for most of their lives, and have written songs together for a big chunk of that time). The album caught the eye of Saddle Creek, who signed the band and released double-A side, Communication/Parallel, in early 2019. By this point the band had bolstered its ranks to include Brendan Manley (drums), Logan Severson (guitar, backing vocals) and Shannon Connor (guitar, keys) – a move which gave Communication a fuller sound, and saw them gaining traction with blogs and playlist-compilers throughout the music world.
To say that Collector is their first full album is astounding. Such is the breadth and quality of the songwriting on show, at times, it feels like a cross between a record label sampler and a greatest hits compilation. I’m Really Trying and Gentle feel like songs that would come from a bands early work – snappy, urgent, and loud – they recall the sharp, punk-grunge of Cloud Nothings and Superchunk. Elsewhere, lead single Daily Routine, and its neighbour, Konichiwa Internet, find that grungy sound counterpointed with spots of introspection and self-awareness; the former is a jab of sardonic, tongue-in-cheek lyrics that finds deBroux-Slone bristling against the prison cell of everyday monotony – the latter a Pinkerton-era thump that lurches along insecurely in between sweet, candy-coated bridges.
Disq’s range of influence isn’t just limited to early 2000s alt-pop and mid-90s grunge, however. The likes of D19 (a shimmering, summery love letter to a piece of recording equipment), and the doleful, folky Trash could come from any period in the last 60 or so years, whereas Fun Song 4 and I Wanna Die each lie at opposite ends of the psych-rock spectrum, shifting from racing, skintight playfulness to thudding, existential dread.
For all of Collector’s stylistic pinballing, the tracks that work best are the ones that find Disq blending genres and ideas within the same song. Album highlight, Loneliness, begins with gently creeping acoustic guitars and icy reverb, before gritting its teeth and bursting forth into a blistering, lovelorn barrage of anxiety-riddled pop, razor-blade guitars, and lyrics that lay bare the frustration and repressed anger deBroux feels. It’s the best example of Disq distilling all their influences and ideas into something that is uniquely theirs, elevating them to so much more than a sound-a-like band.
Album closer, Drum In, gives an alluring insight into where Disq could go next, and quite what they could become. It’s a slowly evolving, direction shifting song that sounds like The Beatles teetering on the edge of going into a full-on Car Seat Headrest breakdown. It’s the album’s only slightly frustrating point, as you can’t help but feel like you are willing the band to tip over the precipice and throw everything at the track as it reaches its crescendo.
Collector is perhaps aptly named. It speaks to those collectors who flip through record shop racks and search for and obsess over their next find. If you were to empty out the Alternative US section of your local independent, sprinkle in a few records from the Summer Of Love, and then filter them all through the digitally informed landscape of hopefulness and hopelessness that forms the Millennial mindset, you wouldn’t be far off this sublime debut album. For so many ideas and voices to come together so brilliantly is a success in itself, but for each one of them to pull through with such clarity and character is another thing altogether. The buzz around Disq’s debut album has grown spectacularly over the last twelve months, and it’s so satisfying to say that is every bit justified. A must listen.
Secret Meeting score: 87