QTY’s self-titled debut is an ode to friendship, being human, and holding on to hope even in the most grim moments.
Describing the human experience is incredibly difficult. Our daily lives are shaped by moments of happiness, insecurity, confidence, trust, disappointment, mundanity. We try to be in control, but tend to lose it. We encounter situations, both good and bad, which make us question just about everything we’ve ever known. Sometimes we meet people who change our lives overnight. Pulling all of these strings together is challenging.
And yet, New York duo QTY succeed on doing just that on their self-titled debut record, out today via Dirty Hit Records. In it, Dan Lardner and Alex Niemetz fuse the best of what rock music has to offer with some of the greatest and most clever lyrics you’ll ever hear. There are incredible highs, mostly provided by some guitar solos that are so good you won’t believe they’re real or moments when Lardner and Niemetz sing together and you can hear the pure joy and fun in their voices. The lows come in the form of lyrics which explore self-doubt, lack of confidence and those moments when it feels like the world is getting the best of you.
The power of real collaboration between artist and producer is shown on QTY’s debut. Bernard Butler, the album’s producer, managed to elevate the songs to new levels of brilliance without ever losing sight of the band’s essence and fingerprint. It’s in the shiny chords on “Michael”, the glam rock-inspired backing vocals on “Cold Nights”, and the weeping guitar riffs on “New Beginnings” and “Sad Poetic” that you realize just how much production can help bring new meaning to a song.
Album opener “Rodeo” was the first song QTY brought to us, a little more than a year ago. The fierce and at times abrasive guitar chords which start the song serve as a complete contrast to the lyrics, in which Lardner talks about his struggles and how his “person”, Niemetz, helps him through it all. In retrospect, this was the perfect debut single – it touches upon the most important themes on the record, like struggles and insecurities, and how friendship is the one thing which helps Lardner and Niemetz keep it together.
Watch: “Dress/Undress” – QTY
“Dress/Undress” takes you on a “day in the life of QTY” trip, turning routine and mundanity into something worth singing about. Most impressive about the song is the outro, where Lardner and Niemetz bombard you with information and scenarios only to finish the song with a sigh and sing “Oh god, I’d like a beer”.
Next comes “Michael“, in which Lardner sits you down and tells you all about his past. Small details like mentions of Lardner’s crystal collection, his father’s name, and his sister’s jeans make “Michael” the most autobiographical song on the record. The rhythm guitar shines over the riff, and even though he’s talking about certain insecurities and struggles, the song’s overall tone is a happy one. The chorus explodes with life, light, and colour. The instrumental after the bridge is, without a doubt, one of the best moments of guitar music you’ll listen to this year.
One of the standout tracks of the album is “Cold Nights”. This was a song made to be performed at arenas, and is real evidence of just how promising QTY’s career is. It’s a joyous song, a celebration of those nights when you get up to no good with your best friends by your side (“Cold nights, slow time, skin crawls, guilt trips/ Cold men burn bridges over friendship”), and no matter what happens you know everything will be alright because you have them by your side. It’s very hard to put into words just how special this song is.
“Word for This” is thick with wordplay. It opens with “Spent some time in a fountain, I think I liked how it felt and not deep enough, it never sunk in/ Some things you can count on, I got a number ” and one of the lyrical highlights of the song is “A short path to a setback/ I’m on the sidewalk it’s my floor plan and it’s scorching”, with the last word being delivered in a deliciously devious manner.
In “Living Things”, Lardner thanks Niemetz for being there for him during every single moment of his life even when he feels like he’s on a “losing streak”. He promises her: “Watch me as I make up for past disasters/ I know I’m only able because to you it wouldn’t matter if this losing streak went on another day”. It’s the most heartfelt song about their friendship, even though that’s the overarching theme of the record. Beautiful lines like “you’re every version of my favourite thing” and “I only broke myself and you said ‘Hey, that’s not a problem’” show just how special this relationship is.
Niemetz takes the vocal lead on “New Beginnings”, where the album slows down momentarily. Her soft voice gives us hope, and reminds us that no matter how bad things are, we always have a second chance. “New Beginnings” comes as a moment of pondering and introspection, an admission of our shortcomings and how the outside world can influence our outlook on life, but also as a reminder that we have the power to change that.
The hopeful message is consolidated on “Salvation”, the album closer. A slow-burning beginning starts the song’s narrative, “Came back from a night in/ To find myself in the world that I hide from”. Lardner starts telling you a story, his voice is relaxed but hints at a surprise, QTY is bringing something special to the table. This something special comes in the chorus. Lardner and Niemetz sing together, almost like a chant: “I want salvation just without any of that god shit”, and the most beautiful burst of energy comes on the song’s punch line: “going to be alright”, which is sung out as a promise and a release of tension. That line is the last one sung on the album, many versions of it are layered on top of each other while the song fades out but the optimistic message and the joy QTY brings into everyone’s lives remain.
QTY’s self-titled is a debut record that condenses all of their years, struggles, and talent into just over 30 minutes. It is an ode to friendship, finding your person, being human in spite of all our flaws, and holding on to hope even in the most grim moments. It’s a beautiful body of work. Routine becomes something to be intrigued by and celebrated in their songs, lyrics are drenched in clever wordplay and sprinkled with poetic phrases, and the guitar parts are smooth, metallic, and jaw-dropping at times. The act of balancing attention-grabbing lyrics and amazing guitar solos is not an easy one, and the fact that QTY manages to do so – most times in under three and a half minutes – is true testament to their talent and skill.
QTY are more than just a band, they’re a celebration of authenticity and hard work, a rock and roll revival, but mostly they are two best friends making their dream come true – they have earned this moment in the spotlight, and they aren’t going anywhere.
— — — —
photo © Nicole Almeida