Aliens. spaceships. dystopian worlds. techno beats and dreamy vocals. 1970’s pop-rock.
Nicholas Mallis explores all of these on his summer album “The Final Station.” The album, released by the Athens label Laser Brains, transports listeners into new and strange worlds. Each song is its “own little Black Mirror episode,” Mallis said in a press release, and that’s not an understatement in the slightest.
Mallis, who’s a Ph.D. student in UGA’s the College of Public Health Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, worked on and recorded the album in his home studio in 2019, he said in a press release. The album is concise, clocking in at a mere 27 minutes.
The first track on the album starts out with a lighthearted guitar riff and keyboard melody. Mallis said in a press release that some of his inspirations are David Bowie and Talking Heads, and you can hear this influence right away on the album. This song has a sunshine-y sound, which is juxtaposed with more bleak lyrics like “All roads lead to disaster.”
The Final Station
“The Final Station,” the album’s namesake, again lends itself to Bowie, with apparent ‘70s influences. It bounces back and forth between a techy, futuristic sounding verse and bridge and a fuller chorus where Mallis’ voice and guitar add depth to the sound. This song was one of my favorites of the album. It feels vulnerable and authentic with lyrics like, “Wake me up when I learn to be a person.”
Impregnating Male Politicians
This track tells a sci-fi story of an alien race that, as the name of the track suggests, is impregnating male politicians and seducing deacons. Mallis pairs the dystopian narrative with an arcade game-esque sound, which picks up around the 1:20 mark. I don’t hate this track by any means, but I don’t see it finding its way onto one of my playlists anytime soon.
The midpoint of the album, “Multiply” starts off with a groovier bass riff with some flute weaved in, giving it a late 1970s/early 1980s feel. The flute part plays a bigger role in the chorus where it repeats the melody, at some points giving a bit of dissonance to the song. This paired with some dreamy vocals and harmonies makes for an interesting listen; it’s a refreshing take on the 1970s/1980s sound.
When Karen Comes Home
This song’s up-tempo, heavy on the hi-hats beat gets you to tap your foot along, but it’s muted enough that it’s not overwhelming. “When Karen Comes Home,” is the longest song on the album at 4:22, and Mallis makes use of every second, frequently changing the sound by adding new guitar licks, variations in the percussion and changing the style of his vocals.
“Catch 2022” starts off with Mallis speaking rather than singing, posing some questions to the listener. “How many people out there avoid their friends at the grocery store?” he asks. As he switches into singing, some bass and guitar add some needed richness to the song, giving it a distinct feel from other songs on the album. This track was another one of my favorites on the album.
“Material Caging” is consistent with the techno, arcade game-esque sound that’s present throughout the album. The vocals, and chorus especially, have a dreamy sound that’s almost reminiscent of the doo-wop style of music. The track fades out with its simple percussion beat and electronic melody.
The final track on the album, “Maintenance,” encompasses all of the musical styles explored in the album, from techno to ‘70s and ‘80s pop-rock. The song has a somewhat muted guitar feature, which starts around the 1:30 mark and continues until the song fades out.