Having named their band after one of Johnny Depp’s tattoos, Winona Forever appear indebted to pop culture — not just cult trends either. On their debut LP they demonstrate a penchant for snapshotting current fashions eloquently and succinctly, with just the right amount of irony. Opening track “shrek ~ chic” has one of the clearest examples: “I use an excessive amount of emoticons in every text I send / Every night’s a good night and I never want them to end.”
this is fine. also covers the struggles and worries of teenage and early-twenties life with ease. On “fine” the breezy and bright guitar line almost detracts from the nature of the issues as they sing “There’s got to be more I can do than just wake up tired.” Lead single “#1 summer anthem to grind to” talks more clearly about anxiety throughout, with “I hold my beer / So I can hold a conversation,” being the boldest quote from a cutting rhetoric. Despite the nature of this content, the track has an instant groove to it that is the foundation for good pop music.
Throughout the record, in fact, the lyrics are all just as well crafted. They are brave and engaging to listen to. They come to the fore over intricate melodies, reminiscent of Antidotes-era Foals. “Headrush” has the stand-out riff of the record, a winding scale guitar line that is exactly the brand of indie rock and roll Brandon Flowers promised us back in 2005. This contrast of upbeat, almost joyous melodies and honest lyricism is what makes Winona Forever such a stand out band in Vancouver.
Sometimes, however, they do force the lyrics onto the melodies, giving the impression that two parts have been conceived separately and not married in the smoothest fashion. Both “Smoothie” and “Precarious” utilise a lot of over-elongated syllables to make their respective choruses fit, which doesn’t quite work.
this is fine. is far from a perfect record. It is a solid debut with slices of brilliance littered everywhere, but it could do with a coat of polish. In my mind, all they need is a producer to filter and refine the band’s ideas. But it’s still one of 2016’s most promising Vancouver records. Winona Forever have a lot of potential, and it is exciting to think of what they could do in the future.