Silver Haze, the latest from the Brooklyn group Aye Nako, is a ragged, marvelous, coiled blast of noise, a dozen songs sewn up in barbed-wire guitar and sporting immediate, ruthlessly melodic vocal melodies. There are subtle nods toward the early days of indie rock—the hi-distortion approach of Superchunk and Archers of Loaf, the bent-wire guitars of Polvo and Helium—but not a second of Silver Haze feels derivative or, worse, nostalgic. Instead, Aye Nako start with a familiar template and then smudge and redraw it according to their own designs.
The world in which these songs exist is, realistically, a dangerous one. “Tell me what I need to stay safe on the streets” goes the chorus to “Sissy,” and the slow-creeping “Nightcrawler,” with its spider-leg guitars, imagines “exorcism on a billboard stage” and “false needles in my neck.” In the roiling “The Gift of Hell,” the protagonist ends up “drinking with statues at Grand Army Plaza,” and the bitter sentiment is paired with a big, soaring melody. The oppositional stance is key to who Aye Nako are—passionate believers in the value of DIY spaces, who seek to operate outside the commerce-driven music scene. They grapple often with identity—the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality operate in differing ways for the four band members, and exploring these traumas together provides a sense of healing—and they distill their anger, frustration, and iconoclasm into songs that feel urgent and vital.
That the songs on Haze are so unfailingly melodic makes their lyrics land that much harder. A skipping guitar trips along the background of “Spare Me” before the song erupts into full-throated howl; “The Gift of Hell” juxtaposes 20-ton stoner riffs with a haunting, delicate vocal line. And “Tourmaline” is a mini-epic, moving from a slow-gliding opening to a knottier, more fitful middle section. It’s this kind of restlessness and inventiveness that makes Haze such a gripping listen. It lulls you into comfort before turning the room upside down.
—J. Edward Keyes