In 2018, singer and guitarist Karly Hartzman began the creation of a new solo project she called “Wednesday.” Over time, more members were added to the group. Today, Wednesday is a fully fledged five-piece outfit who recently released their fifth full-length album. Blending indie rock with some slight country stylings and a healthy dose of noise, “Rat Saw God” is a crystal-clear reflection of Hartzman’s environment.
The atmosphere of life in America is captured perfectly. Hartzman has a gift for vivid imagery that can recall vague memories in listeners. “People standin’ with their arms crossed / In the line at the Panera Bread / At a rest stop,” she sings on the album’s closer, “TV in the Gas Pump.” Such a specific and seemingly random line may not mean much on its own, but it reinforces the world “Rat Saw God” creates. For me, it also conjures that niche feeling of stretching your legs after a prolonged period of time in a car.
What kind of world does “Rat Saw God” create? It’s a mirror to small-town America and the quiet sadness that looms over it. The desensitization to tragedy is emphasized on “Got Shocked.” Hartzman sings, “You never ask for anything / The racecar driver died on TV / I ran like hell into the burning house / It’d been too long since I had felt the sting.”
This feeling is reinforced multiple times throughout the course of the album. On “Bath County,” Hartzman sings, “Heard someone died in the Planet Fitness parking lot,” as if it were simply a passing thought. On “Quarry,” she describes various places and figures – some real, some fictional – in an unnamed area that could very well be anywhere: “Bobby and Jimmy sit in the baby pool with lice in their hair / They have scoliosis from constant slumps in misery.”
The weariness of the world is further supported by Hartzman’s vocal delivery. Most of the time, it’s mellow with a slight Southern accent, bordering on a mumble. However, when the occasion calls for it, she can really push the limits of her voice. Take the climax of “Bull Believer,” for example, where her repeating, “Finish him,” refrain ramps up in intensity until it becomes a visceral scream.
Speaking of “Bull Believer,” the song, in short, is a triumph. Arriving just after the shortest and first track on the album, “Bull Believer” is a nine-minute behemoth that most bands would normally place at the end of a project. Wednesday is not most bands. The track’s subject matter is expansive. Hartzman attempts to use faith to rationalize deep personal tragedy (she implies some of her friends passed away in a car crash). She also uses a bull fight as a metaphor for a person becoming drained of vigor and passion over time. An additional topic concerns the collection of memories and experiences that accumulate to form who you are today. And then of course, there is that climax I mentioned previously, a goosebumps-inducing scream into the void that concludes easily one of the best songs I’ve heard all year.
My criticisms of “Rat Saw God” are few. Some songs can be difficult to tell apart due to the limited instrumental palette used throughout the album. Also, some songs’ noisier sections feel a bit too compressed. There is a feeling in many parts that they could be much louder. Instead, all of the instruments just blend together (but not in a good way). However, these complaints are minimal, and every single song on here has something to offer.
“Rat Saw God” is an exciting release that will hopefully propel Wednesday into the forefront of indie music. Hartzman’s heavy usage of imagery in her lyrics creates a vivid and enticing atmosphere. I’m looking forward to seeing what Wednesday does next; they are certainly a band to watch out for in the future.