quannnic's 'Stepdream' Is a Melancholic Yet Hopeful Testament From a Budding Cult Icon

quannnic’s Stepdream is a testament to the musical range of the young artist who mysteriously hit the noise scene running in 2022 with their breakout song, “life imitates life.” With this new album, quannnic refines their unique perspective, blending their influences that reach from metal to folk while keeping their voice and emotional turmoil consistent. 

The roots of quannnic lie in the lush textures of shoegaze and rock, which can be heard in “South,” one of the album’s lead singles. They layer distortion to create a gauzy bed of noise for wailing guitar solos, mournful and bitter as they cut across a rich soundscape. Desperation-tinged melodies are a perfect vessel for determined vocals, embodying elements of emo but also early-2000s rock—something akin to Daughtry meets Deftones. 

“Comatose” also leans into this sound, where the yearning and loneliness run thick through the artful curtain of fuzz. Although melancholic music is often associated with stripped-down ballads, it’s the fullness of quannnic’s arrangements that depicts their brooding tone so well. “Comatose” is pure noise, magnifying the catharsis with each new sound. The overall sound is grim, but quannnic leaves it up for interpretation what exactly they mean in the lyrics. “I’ll carry you around, betting until I drown.” 

There’s a definite '90s influence to quannnic’s sound, heard best in tracks like “How to Hold a Knife” and “Sheets.” The former embraces Radiohead-like chords, illuminating the progression with quick guitar licks as the song descends into a darker, more bitter register. On this track quannnic embraces dissonance, infusing the sound with spite. Contrastingly, “Sheets” is more ruminative, but continues to lean into the '90s guitar arpeggios. Here, there are some punk moments as quannnic adopts a taunting speak-sung vocal, revealing a playfulness. 

“Jophiel” pushes the limits of the artist’s vocals even further, using screams as another layer of distortion, intertwined with ambient feedback. The vocal outpour invites a torrent of crashing drums and guitars, processed with electronic static to further the indignant sound—cold, but rippling with fervor. 

Listeners also hear moments of softness throughout Stepdream, like in “Ache,” which is one of the more hopeful tracks on the album. If the rest of the tracklist is draped in deep maroons, this one is amber. It still aches, as the title would predict, but with an underlying sense that the ache will eventually fade in the lilting harmonies and light strumming. Similarly, “Rummage” was a surprise, featuring Orbiting Human Circus – a project of Julian Koster’s (Neutral Milk Hotel). This track finds an intersection between folk and shoegaze, ending up with a song laden in nostalgic ambiance and grit. 

The final track, “How Much Time to Quit,” brings listeners full circle through quannnic’s artistry, closing Stepdream on a hopeful, yet melancholic note. 

Listen to Stepdream below:

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