The song “Elliott” on Dweller’s new record Aquarium is a lead-in to the Philly-based band’s sound, but it also shows how that sound traces from the late Elliott Smith’s music. “Sit by the river and listen to Elliott / call to the birds flying over the water / don’t fly so far away / you’ll lose sight of what is under your wing.” 

Whether or not a direct reference to the melancholic discography of Smith, the latest from this Philly indie-rock band (which features XPN videographer John Groome on bass) is full of lyrics that are straightforward, easy to understand, and emotive, elements that were omnipresent in Smith’s wispy, double-tracked sound.

Each track on Aquariaum engages with a story-telling lyrical build, accompanied by lead vocals that match up with the intensity. “Tiber” features prominent guitar playing, with the short but powerful lead vocals navigating a common motif of altered self-perception due to someone else, likely a love interest. “Tiber” showcases the album’s instrumental emphasis as well, with a vastly differing intro and outro to compliment with the lyrical narrative. 

On “Fraud” one of the album’s darker tracks, the lead vocals collapse into a pensive, echoing sound, and fittingly so. Building on the theme of unrequited love and inward blame, the band sings “I want to hate myself / for nothing else but being in love / but I see the rose both wilt and grow /  so why can’t I face the man I really am.” Dweller does a great job alluding to symbols as a lyrical strength, such as a rose that has beauty in its petals but the potential for harm within its thorns, a metaphor leading into a crescendo of a repetitive “Oh, because I’m a fraud.”

Dweller | photo via

The four-piece does not shy away from experimenting instrumentally, with a variety of sounds within the album’s tracks. On the title track, “Aquarium,” the psychedelic rock that can be heard on their 2018 single “Running,” appropriately chimes in on the dreamy, fantasy-like narrative. Visuals in the music video for “Elliott” also hone in on colorful and trippy effects.

Although the sound on Aquarium fits with Dweller’s psychedelic indie-rock, their lyrical take feels familiar to Smith, with candid and vulnerable storytelling. As a listener, their music places you in a specific setting, and it feels like you are a bystander to the scene that they unfold in their sometimes rocking, and other times softer, soundscapes. Like the album artwork, the tracks will leave you analyzing the particular elements that build within their respective sounds, almost as if you are within a different ecosystem of an aquarium on each track.

Aquarium is available now on Bandcamp, with all proceeds being donated to NIVA, the National Independent Venue Association which is seeking to preserve and nurture the ecosystem of independent live music venues and promoters in the U.S. Check out the video for “Elliott” below.