I feel like I’ve talked a lot about bands from my home state lately, and I’d like to give a fully transparent disclaimer that it is purely coincidental and of no sort of bias, I promise! That said, holy shit have some of my fellow VA dwellers been killing it lately, and I’m absolutely here for it. Today, I’d like to talk all about a band I’ve been following for a little bit now known as Keep, and their latest release Happy In Here. What I consider to be one of the more interesting shoegaze records to be released in quite some time, this is absolutely a record that needs to be talked about; so much so I specifically requested to review it upon finding out about its release!
Let’s just go ahead and get the basics out of the way – Keep are a band out of Chesapeake, VA, although they have been operating out of Richmond, VA since the release of their first EP, Hypnosis For Sleep. The quintet have released a number of singles, and made quite the name for themselves with each release. Even the recommended section at the bottom of the Bandcamp page reads that if I like Keep (which I do, a lot) I may also like Nothing, Knifeplay, and SLOW CRUSH. Wild, because I definitely listen to at least two of those names frequently.
This relation to the aforementioned artists is not only quite fitting, but actually doesn’t exactly prepare you for what you’ll find in Happy In Here. Right out the gate, “Can’t You” and “Air” possess the chorus-soaked, reverb-drenched guitar finesse or something similar to what we’d hear of the likes of Drab Majesty. But at the same time, the dreamy elements and overall texture match that of something like Immanu El, Moving Mountains, or Explosions in the Sky. This mix of a post-rock, goth pop-esque, alternative crossover of sorts hits notes in just enough of a dynamic range that separates Keep from names I’ve heard before.
While they sound like an almagamation of various qualities and elements taken from different names inside and out of the shoegaze umbrella, they still manage to remain a sound of their own. By the time I hit “Glowing Green”, which, mind you, is only the fourth track into the album, my fandom of the band and the album had quickly been sealed. Vocalist and drummer Nick Yetka has a flavor to his voice that strikes reminiscence of Chino Moreno to me, at least in certain spots if nothing else. In some ways, his tone is perhaps a little more refined, even, and come to think of it, the band does exhibit hints of Deftones in their sound as well. Perhaps that’s something that could be attributed to virtually any shoegaze band in some way, though.
Even with these comparisons and any accuracy they could possess, Keep don’t exactly wear these influences on their shoulders. While I hear this familiarity in their style, there’s a distinction about songs like “Start to Wonder” and “Everything” that tells me Keep are a band that’s not only cut their own sort of path, but become quite seasoned at it. While I prefer the first half of the album to the latter, there is no shortage of interesting sonic weaving done here. If I had to pick, I’d say “Glowing Green” is the favorite on the first half and “Everything” is the favorite on the second.
An album cited as being all about ‘firmly feeling the passage of time’, as the notes on the band’s Bandcamp read, the entire album truly does feel like it slows down both space and time… but not in any boring sort of way! It’s more like a relaxing, serotonin-inducing, calming sort of way. The description goes on to give some background on the recording and production process of the album, as well as further points on what meanings exist behind the lyricism and general mood of the tracks. Keep appear to be enriched with existential awareness and what it means to soak up life as best you can, while you can.
‘Happy In Here was recorded over the course of ten days at Earth Analog Studios in Tolono, Illinois. The majority of the album was written in the six months leading up to the recording session, which took place in January of 2022. It’s an album about firmly feeling the passage of time. It’s about eternally searching for the perfect distraction, to no avail. Above all else, it’s about the reconciliation between the idealized version of life and reality.’
So, how many times have you spun the record while reading this? Well, do it again, and then do it some more. If you find yourself a fan of anything that bands like Slowdive, Smashing Pumpkins, or Blushing do, you’ll find plenty of promise in Keep’s Happy In Here. By the time you’re reading this article, the band will be just about geared up and rolling on their upcoming U.S. tour, spanning from March 9 through April 5. Be sure to follow their socials, keep up on the dates, and get out to one of the shows if they are anywhere near you! Rest assured, your ears and brain will be in good hands from the waveforms generated in Keep’s serenading, whether live or in headphones!