Sound — 8
Though shoegaze itself is nothing if not proficient in mastering musical undertones, one of its most successful students of the day is Whirr. Formed and renamed from "Whirl" after a hilarious legal scuffle with a chick covering Sabbath on the acoustic guitar, Nick Bassett's (Deafheaven) Whirr hails from San Francisco. Debuting with "Pipe Dreams" in 2012, the band now continues its love affair (and perhaps most productive outlet anyway) with the extended play with "Around." Always the dramatic opening, "Drain" begins in a magnificent sludge of clean(ish) strumming, explodes into a grand mess of bombast, and moves into a dreamier (if you can imagine) sequence around three quarters of the way through. As characteristically somber as shoegaze may be, Whirr really mellows out the mellow, retaining about the same speed throughout. As bizarre as it seems to call something like "Loveless" upbeat, "Around" has more in common with the infamous "Giles Corey" album than much of My Bloody Valentine's short discography. This is to no disadvantage, as every measure packs a punch: the melodramatic first act of "Swoon" proudly bursts. "Keep" is romantic in an "Us and Them" sort of way and transitions directly into the closing title track. "Around" repeats one of the motifs from "Drain," which is an interesting choice for two tracks roughly 12 minutes apart. On one hand, it feels like a mini "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", but on the other hand comes off as a very brilliant band taking advantage of the EP format (admittedly, "Wish You Were Here" is less than twenty minutes longer). If not for the categorization of EP/LP/compilation, one could quite easily argue that "Around" feels as complete as any full-length album, and even moreso than most. Any record that can feel that full and still clock in under half an hour deserves some kind of accolade, if only for storytelling. Lucky for Whirr, "Around" boasts not only time well spent, but music well composed.
Lyrics — 7
Standard writing format strikes back. Whirr is bare-bones vocals (fewer than the comparatively wordy MBV), most of which is vague repeated melodies mostly underneath the music itself. Unlike virtually every non-instrumental/classical form of music, Whirr appears set on using vocals as just another instrument; the voice is utilized as a layer, rather than a dominant piece of the puzzle. With the help of repeated motifs and dramatic movements from song to song, Whirr really eliminates the "need" for heavy vocalization. That being said, where it is used, the lyricism/vocals are as thought-out as the rest of the record's instrumentation.
Overall Impression — 8
Often used as a mini-release or compilation of previously unseen material and definitely overused as an outlet for live tracks - perhaps the extended play has been abused. Whether Whirr had any intention of rectifying this or not, "Around" certainly rings with a greater complexity and completeness than most EPs, reminiscent of releases like Nine Inch Nails' "Broken" EP. As far as musicianship goes, it may as well be categorized as being part their primary discography - the evident effort that went into the record certainly suggests that it belongs there. Covering all corners of romance, despair, and perhaps resolve (a la the slightly more driven title track), "Around" feels, quite simply, like a full album.