Album Review: Mowing the Leaves Instead of Piling ’Em Up by Wednesday

by: Ian Johnson

On the surface, Wednesday’s newest release Moving the Leaves Instead of Piling ‘Em Up may seem underwhelming as it features zero new original compositions by Asheville singer-songwriter Karly Hartzman. However, upon closer inspection listeners will find an engaging and exploratory work that offers an inside perspective into the influences that make up Wednesday.

Wednesday first gained attention in underground rock circles back in 2020 with their debut album I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone which featured hard hitting 90’s inspired noise rock songs, especially on tracks “Maury” and “Fate Is…”. While their affinity for fuzzed out chugging guitars is still definitely present, MtLIoPEU features a variety of different genres, from Roy Orbison-esque country blues to the contemporary experimental rock of Hotline TNT. 

Starting off with the opening track and single “She’s Acting Single (I’m Drinkin Double)”, Wednesday immediately shows off the influence of their hometown Asheville, NC by covering Gary Stewart’s country classic. Using changing tempos and keys, Wednesday perfectly combines the upbeat acoustic nature of the original with a signature marching chorus blanketed with fuzz that brings the lyric’s true sadness to life.

Next, Wednesday covers “I Am The Cosmos”, an underrated 80’s power pop ballad by Chris Bell, featuring backup vocals from Asheville singer/songwriter Zach Romeo. While the arrangement stays mostly true to the original, there is a distinct lofi approach that differs from the original, serving to let the lyrics take the forefront. Hartzman’s heartfelt vocal performance compliments this direction well, making for a  highlight on the album.

“Lock, Stop, and Teardrops” is a short and sweet indie rock anthem that serves as a welcome change of pace to the album’s slower feel. Originally an Orbison-like country blues song, Wednesday’s upbeat and cathartic take gives the lyrics a different context, sounding closer to “Free” by The Martinis than the sock hop original. Next, “Women Without Whiskey” sounds like a page right out of MJ Lenderman’s solo work. An early 2000s southern rock jam with clever lyrics hiding true pain, MJ’s vocals convey the exhaustion of the narrator well and give the lyrics weight.

“Had 2 Try” demonstrates Wednesday’s influence from their peers, with a spot-on cover of underrated noise rock outfit Hotline TNT. A ferocious guitar riff dominates this song, yet the lofi nature and Hartzman’s soft vocals take the edge off, giving it a new shoegazey feel. Finally, “Time Baby II” introduces electronic elements to their usual guitar-based sound, hinting at a possible evolution from Wednesday’s current sound. Softened by MJ Lenderman’s analog production, the wall of sound of the original turns into a triumphant, off-kilter indie song similar to “Fame Throwa” by Pavement. 

Overall, MtLIoPEU serves as an important step in Wednesday’s discography, offering insight into their influences and progressing their sound. While the running theme of sadness and humor connects the album in a satisfying way, it leaves the listener wanting to hear more of Hartzman’s original songs. Musically, Wednesday’s experimental efforts on this album rarely miss the mark, despite bridging the gap between many different genres. It’s an essential new release for fans of 70’s Zuma-era Neil Young and 90’s shoegaze, and also those looking for a good album to unwind to while staying in on a Friday night.