Yesterday I had no idea who Lume were. Today I want to know everything there is to know. This shift in fascination was sparked by hearing the band’s debut album Wrung Out, released 20th April via Equal Vision Records. Lume are a Chicago based trio that includes Daniel Butler, Dylan Hulett, and Austin Hulett.
Opening with the title track, Wrung Out already seems like an invitation to lose yourself. Steady pace, dirty riffs, and captivatingly warm vocals set the scene of what Lume are offering up. Citing Soundgarden as an influence, I hear it in the instrumentally focused parts of the song, where unsettling guitar melodies are swirling while the track drives on. (I hear it later in the album too, in the dirty riffs and bass appreciation.) The vibe of “Wrung Out” is defeat and emotional heaviness.
“Keep Me Under” was the first single from the album (premiered via Revolver Magazine). The dark feelers of this track splay out while a clear and warm voice shares honestly. My heart empathises with the emotional heaviness and seeming regret of what they’ve caused or created with their choices; literally feeling like they’ve been taken over by something dark. The calmness of vocals are both moving and unsettling as they feel like an attempt to stay sane in amongst the noise and pressures of life, which is beautifully expressed by weighty beats, soaring and haunting guitar, and uneasy bass.
“The weight of all my vices, laid out one by one, to keep me under”
We’re still left feeling uneasy with “Gaze” and it’s obvious that the ‘wrung out’ factor is emotional and mental as we progressively go through the spin cycles with Lume. A dark and humming scene is laid while a quest for more seems to try and break through the fog. Though relatively simply done musically, the track is moving in this sense of being crushingly stuck/oppressed. As the sound becomes clearer and sparser, repeating “I try to keep my will at bay / I’d die to keep my will at bay”, I feel the defeatedness at being further and further away from where I want to be.
“Loss Leader” unfolded uncomfortably from its haunting vocalled and gigantic riffed beginnings through to its unresolved close. My first listen coincided with the music video which hit emotionally hard. We are pulled by Lume into a nothingness existence where monotony is all there is. A looped riff and crushing moments of unnerving chaos express this pervading sense of sameness and waiting for something to come that never does. Attempts to go through the motions seem to create only more problems. It’s unsettling, upsetting, and hard to stay present with for an empathetic heart. It’s very well done in skillfully expressing this intimacy with a low point in the experience of being human.
I begin to listen to “Unglued” and I feel like running away from the emotional lowness. Lume are already ungluing me with a bass-heavy and warm toned introduction, where multiple layers float by. I surrender to it all and it starts to feel ethereal, giving the emotional darkness more sense of mystery and curiosity than just being plain depressing. Steady unraveling, where vocals are our anchor to reality as we take this rabbit hole, “Unglued” feels like a potential turning point. Noisy riffs layered over steady beats seem ominous, where I might either be buried or lifted by the changing tide.
Lack of clear resolution and emotional heaviness makes sense given that Lume faced the loss of three friends to drug abuse and suicide in the process of creating the album. The band members have used Wrung Out as an expression of all they’ve been through and attempts to find answers.
“Shudder”‘s introduction promises something at least slightly more hopeful. Weighty drum beats hit straight to the heart and feel like finality, even though the guitars seem relatively lighter as the track finds its feet. Confusion, care, and remembrance spread over the track, where building drums take us into an impactful guitar focus. Isolated vocals feel shivery as they hang in the air with the close of the track.
Dusky “31st Street” captures a melodic story of waiting alone in the dark, before dissonant guitar of realisation hits. Courtesy of a late night call, the news of loss has come. “31st Street” expresses the sheer skin-crawling starkness at having to face the reality of loss. Soft and honest vocals call for something more beautiful than the ugliness they’ve found themselves in; an escape where the loss doesn’t exist, didn’t happen, is erased. The impossibility of the tender and somber wish has “31st Street” hit emotionally hard.
I’m not sure I can take much sadness as I begin to explore the darker and heavier sounding “Lean”. Seeming more complex and with an element of frustration to its sound, the track feels like trying to make sense of how someone is handling difficulty (or at least I am assuming so, going by feel with the absence of the lyrics). Often drowned in the noise of strong and driving riffs, distorted vocals seem to try making their way through to the surface, perhaps trying to handle things from under the weight of the world. Warm static floods the track as a troubled person seems well aware of how they’re coming across.
Rich and dirty riffs of “Already Low” meet with something more hopeful and beautiful as waves of melodic guitar move in. Flowing between the two ‘sides’, I find myself intrigued and into this song that grows progressively into something more and more massive. With so much going in on this track it’s at times hard to know where to give my attention, despite being captivated. I fall for the looming heaviness of guitar joining in with vocals in a quieter moment of the track, and the repeating wave-like feel that is being created here and trails out.
“Unending” closes Wrung Out. Lume’s vocalist Daniel Butler describes it as “essentially me trying to put myself into their headspace of mentally/physically not being able to feel anything, hear what anyone has to say, or see the worth of your own life, or others’ presence in your own life and feeling guilty that those incapabilities have led to not being able to be there for the people you care about.”
We watch a familiar woman existing silently in differing scenes, her stillness and lack of expression unnerving. Very real vocals honestly (and beautifully) make admissions of difficulty, and skin-crawling riffs move through subtle to huge. The lyrical questions of ‘Why?’ combined with her stillness and the multi-layered heaviness feels like life is far too heavy, where collapsing and giving up would be a relief. The sonic ‘collapse’ into collisions and massiveness and repeated lyric of “I don’t feel that much at all these days” happens and it’s both confronting and satisfying in a way. The noise is a welcome relief to the visual silence.
I’m not going to lie: Reviewing Wrung Out was emotionally exhausting. It feels exactly as the title says, and an empathetic listener will be right there with Lume as they spill ache and confusion until there’s nothing left. Honest words tumble into a storm of skilled and heavy riffs, where sitting in the eye of uncomfortable difficulty is only a momentary relief. The knowledge that the pain will continue hangs like a fog over the album, and might make it tough to absorb with focused attention. When heard from more of a distant perspective, Wrung Out is musically impressive and is laid out over a landscape that features dark crevices as well as wide plains of isolation. It’s beautiful and real even in its darkness. Lume have taken some of the worst of the human experience and impressively channeled it into song.
Powerfully moving and beautifully structured songs. Raw honesty and musical skill poured into topics that deserve acknowledgement.
Exceptionally gruelling emotionally, based on the content. The emotional weight that exists through the album may make it hard for specific songs to stand out in memory.