Last year, Wednesday released Mowing the Leaves Instead of Piling ‘em Up, a covers album with takes on classics by their influences (The Smashing Pumpkins, Drive-by Truckers, Gary Stewart) and hidden gems from their contemporaries (the NYC band Hotline TNT). Mowing the Leaves has some killer renditions, but, more importantly, it documents Wednesday’s ability to scrapbook, archive, reference, and intertwine.
To hear this band sing their favorite songs is to be welcomed into their home and given the grand tour. That’s how the Asheville five-piece works: they thread together the stories they tell, the media they consume, the memories that haunt them, and the people they love into something imperfect and rough and real. Nothing is insignificant, and everything can be equally tragic and beautiful. They said it best themselves: “A Wednesday song is a quilt.”
On Rat Saw God, Wednesday does what they do best: they collect. The album is a gauzy, twangy and heartfelt web of scraps. “Bull Believer” strings the country music history podcast Cocaine and Rhinestones, a nose-bleed at a New Year’s Party, and the Mortal Kombat punchline “Finish him!” into a catharsis. It heaves and sways with each shake of Karly Hartzman’s voice. “Turkey Vultures” unites some fanatics “fired up about Jesus” with a “sex shop off the highway.” Every song evokes a texture or a physical feeling like “hot rotten grass smell” or the sleepy boredom of a road trip (“TV in the Gas Pump”).
Wednesday bring disparate objects together with their usual blend of alt-country and ‘90s shoegaze. But Rat Saw God is more reactive than their previous albums. The band shifts with each pull of Hartzman’s voice, like the pulse-quickening accelerando on “Got Shocked” or the sway of “What’s So Funny.” MJ Lenderman demonstrated his expressive musicianship on last year’s Boat Songs, but Rat Saw God overflows with it. The songs ebb and flow communally, each band-member exploding and retracting their playing as one. Just like those classics they covered on Mowing the Leaves Instead of Piling ‘em Up, every guitar string and pedal steel note is fine-tuned to the heart.
It’s hard not to see why music critics (me included) are already waxing poetic about Rat Saw God. So much music—indie, rock, pop, and otherwise—attempts to digest the 21st century. Even art that has nothing to do with the Internet can feel intrinsically tied to it. Just look at Wednesday’s label mates on Dead Oceans: there’s Phoebe Bridgers’s doom-scrolling writing style, Mitski’s TikTokified catalog, and the post-ironic sneer of Shame. Rat Saw God is anachronistic. It’s entirely un-Internet. It’s sifting through much-cared-for antiques and old photographs.
Album highlight “Turkey Vultures” ends with the line “At night I don’t count stars/I count the dark.” This is the kind of timeless ache that Wednesday shoots for and consistently achieves. They make mountains out of little moments. Even at their most dire, they cherish the little things.
Rat Saw God is out now.