10,000 Listens or Less: Shmu – “Lead Me to the Glow”

Nicole Moore

If there was ever a moment to say “Is this music too weird for radio?” it probably came when Shmu’s “Lead Me to the Glow” fell into my lap late last year.

Masterminded by Austin-based Sam Chown, “Lead Me to the Glow” is an abstract mix of noise that takes me back to a time in the 90’s that I myself didn’t personally experience. The album oozes a retro, not quite vaporwave, yet very 1992 aesthetic that is hard to put into words, aside from the fact that it makes me want to grab a Surge and hit up my local mall.

Hitting up the mall is more of an understatement, the album at points is more like riding a skateboard downhill at drastic speeds before pulling off a totally radical trick at the bottom. Songs like “Your Favorite God” feature hauntingly eerie, yet catchy vocals and synths that are propelled forward by Chown’s groovy drumming. Uppity, yet sinister lyrics tell of being on hold with the afterlife’s phone line, all backed up my samples of a nasally monotone pastor giving a sermon.

The album’s lead single “Lead Me to the Glow” found later in the track listing is more laid back, yet equally as eerie. Off key synths open the track before exploding into a loving relationship between neo-psychedelica and ska, and features one of the more catchy choruses in the track listing.

To describe this project is to say that it is an audio collage. Nothing in this record is unfamiliar to the standard listener, be it synths, drums, guitars or horns, yet the way that Chown has spliced and mixed these sounds together cultivates into a simply “odd” experience of neo-psychedelic sounds with a 90’s twinge to them. Despite the collage like nature of the project no song ever feels out of place, and everything ties together into one concise project.

The preciseness of the structure of the album’s track listing is backed up in a preciseness in production as well. Every instrument in the mix comes at you with its own stereo soundspace, seemingly surrounding you. This production aspect is especially apparent in nosier moments on the project, like “All Will Be Erased” and moments of “Rainbows.”

Nothing is ever too weird for radio, and this record is no exception to that. Shmu through clever production and backed by lyricism telling of the end of the world and interactions of God, create an ominous yet tongue and cheek depiction of stereotypical 90’s pop. Every track of “Lead Me to the Glow” currently sits at 10,000 listens or less on Spotify with the exception of the self-titled lead single, sitting at 83,982.

Rating: 4 out of 5 sails