Album Review: EXES - ‘Before You Go’


Chilled out indie pop soundscapes will carry you away in the latest EXES album.

Bicoastal indie-pop duo EXES are formed of Brooklyn-based Allie McDonald and Venice beach-based producer Mike Derenzo, and the release of their newest album ‘Before You Go’ will make you fall head over heels for the duo if you haven’t already. Tackling personal feelings, it’s an intimate album that almost acts as a diary in the way it expels it’s emotions. Inspired by a difficult time in the duo’s musical career, when they were feeling desperate and without hope, it serves as a reminder of a time where everything could’ve ended, but thankfully didn’t. 

Opening with ‘Index’, tinkering electronics create an ethereal opening that gently guides you into the album. Chopped up vocal samples are subtly inserted, adding to the otherworldly feeling, and it’s an immersive experience as McDonald’s dulcet vocals join in the texture. Gently pleading, ‘Baby can we talk it out?’, there’s a vulnerability in the vocals that will leave your heart tender and aching. 

‘Arrival’ begins with a warm piano melody, before fluttering electronic beats join in alongside McDonald’s octave vocals. A poignant chorus will strike a chord within you in it’s simplistic yet utterly gorgeous approach, as high vocals float above with a lofty airiness. Swelling electronics bring in an upbeat tone of optimism into the track, and as it slowly simmers away layer by layer, you’ll be left with a sweet aftertaste as the last piano notes see you out.

There’s a poppier side to be found in ‘Peckham’, which opens with strumming acoustic guitar but quickly transitions into bassy beats that provide a rhythmic grounding to the track. Colourful high electronics filter through at intervals, providing an extra sparkle to the track. There’s a fluidity to be found in ‘Everything’ as we transition between different sounds without a hiccup, moving from rousing drums to catchy electronics beats and gentle melodies.

Syncopated piano chords open up ‘Before You Go’, providing a mellifluous groove for the listener to hook on to, whilst heartbeat-like thumps before the chorus adds to the build-up. Seamlessly flowing into ‘Bones Break’, it’s a dreamy track that will stun you with it’s feeling lyrics and chilling vocal harmonies. The snare drum in the track provides a contrast to the electronic beats that are heard elsewhere on the album, and all the instrumentals combine together to provide soothing accompaniment to McDonald’s enchanting vocals.

The simplicity of raw vocals with a solo acoustic guitar accompaniment will entrance you at the start of ‘Talk’, before electronics subtly join in and provide a heart-stopping chorus that almost seems to suspend time. An emotive soundscape carries you along as McDonald begs ‘Baby won’t you talk to me?’ with a barely masked despair. Finishing with ‘Over’, not a single trace of this despair can be found as longing feelings fade into a weariness with the relationship. ‘Before You Go’ is a simply exquisite album, and you’ll be sure to find yourself in it’s tracks despite the intimate nature of it, as it relates of universal feelings and struggles. With this album, EXES prove themselves to be masters of translating feelings into words, and you’ll find yourself completely at one with the music. 

Words by Athena Kam