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Wallpaper – The Sun and the Shade (Review)

The Sun and the Shade feels like dreaming with your eyes wide open. Straight from Tayler Bucich’s bedroom in Clemson, SC, the new album from Wallpaper takes you to the moment right before you fall asleep or right as the seasons change: that hazy second between sunshine and shade that you don’t mind being stuck in.

Bucich is a longtime member of Clemson’s Pablo Generation, and The Sun and the Shade maintains the DIY ethos that Wallpaper’s previous releases embody. True to their nature, the collaborative effort that went into this one makes it feel even more special, with album art from Marissa Splendore and friends flitting in on everything from musical saw to drums. The community aspect makes you want to sit on the floor of someone’s living room surrounded by all the people you love and listen to the album the whole way through.

Still, it’s Bucich’s striking honesty that makes The Sun and the Shade so mesmerizing. Delving into the deepest part of his psyche he describes the album as “an abstract internal monologue between intuition and hallucination, written during a time in my life where I was both my saddest and happiest.” With an almost aerial view of life he manages to encapsulate all of the moments that make you feel invincible, that make you believe life is beautiful and those that leave you struck down and wondering what you’re supposed to do with yourself.

Fields of flowers and pink sunsets appear with “Summer’s End”, the love song to life itself, for when living doesn’t feel too hard. The album’s perspective is split between the sun and the shade, with his perspective featured on some tracks as well. All three perspectives come together in perfect harmony on “Where Have the Years Gone?”, seeking the answer to a simple question: “Why are we always surprised? Why?”

Bucich doesn’t limit his experimentation just to his writing style, but continues to push boundaries in the music itself. Featuring Jackson Wise on musical saw and Marissa Splendore on trumpet, “No One’s at Home” is one of his more ambitious tracks. “Things I Can’t Escape” highlights his willingness to try new things, layering these soft delicate vocals that feel like a hushed confessional, some intimate secret only you can hear. Embracing the more experimental side of folk, The Sun and the Shade is like wandering through the mountains without a map, these completely unexpected twists and turns revealing a beauty you never could anticipate.

The Sun and the Shade is one of the most complex albums to come out of South Carolina this year. With all the minute details, the flawless narration, and the motifs laced throughout there is a cohesiveness that can only be a product of time and genuine emotion. Ending with “Where The Sun Goes”, Wallpaper ties it back to his very first single, reiterating “I don’t wanna surprise, unless it’s strawberry skies”, showing how deliberate every line, note, and breath in the album is as it all ties into a greater theme.

The Sun and the Shade possess a certain magic that leads you astray, slipping out of reality and surrounded by this inexplicable magic. Wallpaper does not try to make everything perfect. He does not pretend like there are not things he is still searching for, like in “I Know There’s A Place” as he grapples with identity, or moments he can’t go back to like in “Things I Can’t Replace” as he ruminates on fleeting youth. Yet he turns everything that life is into something gorgeous, something you want to be a part of, that you can fall into and be completely immersed in. It’s about life not being black and white, about all of the dualities that we face, and where we fall in between.