Since 2014, Disq have been a vessel of familiar, feel-good tunes, tactile guitars and young adult woes. Their sweetly sung songs use ’60s pop melodies and ’90s indie rock distortion, resulting in hooks that might sound cloying if they weren’t so instantly catchy. The Wisconsin five-piece’s recordings contain the energizing thrust of a live performance—in large part due to their uncluttered arrangements and their three guitarists. Their 2020 debut Collector evoked that one local band that’s a step above the rest, while their second full-length, Desperately Imagining Someplace Quiet, offers newfound lyrical depth, democratizes the songwriting and lead vocal duties, and introduces new sounds.
Though packed with sunny melodies, Collector was filled with dread—at the thought of breaking one’s negative patterns, confiding in other people, or just being alive for another day. On Desperately Imagining Someplace Quiet, dread is less about day-to-day struggles than a shape-shifting uneasiness that’s harder to pinpoint. Disq are searching for something sturdy to latch onto—whether it be a lover (“This Time”), a sustainable frame of mind (“The Curtain”), or a more evolved society (“Civilization Four”). In each of these scenes, it feels like an ideal life is slipping away, as on “Tightrope,” when one’s own mirror reflection begins to disappear. They touch on the apocalypse and artificial intelligence to capture a lingering fear that seeps into daily life. Feelings of mundane longing are placed next to disorienting and existential anguish.
Bassist Raina Bock makes her singing debut on the psychedelic Crumb-like “Cujo Kiddies,” cooing with impressive dimension, at once capturing an unfazed cool, youthful innocence and bubbly magnetism, and on “Civilization Four,” she adds silvery droning, which compliments guitarist Shannon Connor’s unkempt voice. Having four lead singers only adds to the impression that you’re hearing the exasperations of several distinct individuals. It widens the scope of the album, but keeps it grounded in specificity.
Disq bring new accents to the fore on this album—like the cartoonish boings and distorted saxophone on “Civilization Four” or the askew synths and sinister effects on “Hitting a Nail With a BB Gun” that recall labelmates Spirit of the Beehive—and most of them add intrigue or dynamism. Even guitarist Isaac deBroux-Slone’s cuts, which sound more akin to the effortless pop songs that they’ve released before, have a few curveballs—like the winsome fiddle solo on “If Only” and the tornado of guitar static on “This Time.”
Desperately Imagining Someplace Quiet adds a few unnecessary details and contains brief lapses of focus—particularly with the not-quite-catchy-enough “Tightrope” and the sleepy daze of “Charley Chimp.” But the album possesses strong songwriting fundamentals, and its high points suggest a band that’s taking more risks. Highlights like “(With Respect to) Loyal Serfs” and “The Hardest Part” have harder-edged guitars that evoke Unwound and Silkworm and “The Curtain” has a beaming, Go-Betweens-esque charm. Overall, it’s a small glimpse into the brains of five emotionally unsettled, twentysomething Wisconsinites who’ve got hooks (and issues) for days.
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