A mesmerizing musical trip through the mind of Joe Wong
Joe Wong’s new album Nite Creatures is a beautiful tonal homage to classic ’70s culture. He uses his extensive knowledge of several different instruments primarily to invoke Woodstock-esque psychedelic vibes throughout. Wong, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin native, has become well known behind the scenes through his work as a composer for some fan favorites like Netflix’s Russian Doll and The Midnight Gospel.
Now working out of Los Angeles, Wong is currently the host of a weekly podcast touching on musician life called The Trap Set (while maintaining his usual busy composition schedule, of course). Alongside a vast filmography with several shows and Sundance prize-winning films, Wong has numerous album features under his belt, with Nite Creatures being his debut album under Decca Records.
Nite Creatures also features work from Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips and Anna Waronker of that dog., as well as the mesmerizing effects of a 24-piece orchestra, courtesy of Paul Cartwright’s arrangements. Through his immense instrumental knowledge, velvety vocals and some assistance from his friends, Wong creates vast ’70s soundscapes where one can feel Wong’s personal thoughts and struggles both musically and lyrically. The album touches on his process of coming to terms with loss and the crisis of searching for more permanent footholds in one’s temporary life.
The main single off the album, which was also featured in The Midnight Gospel, is “Dreams Wash Away.” The song features a 16-piece string section that creates a haunting effect while working in combination with the bass, drums and melancholy guitar. Wong explores a psychedelic floating space where one contemplates the strength of their dreams.
The subsequent single following “Dreams Was Away” is the song titled “Minor.” Initially, the listener might be caught off guard by the acoustic guitar’s note-to-note dissonance. Bringing in other parts of the orchestra and his airy vocals, Wong creates an almost drug-induced feeling of having one’s head so full that it’s on the edge of bursting entirely. In these moments, the instrumentation feels like it is closing in. Though the melodies are at times uplifting and vast, the lyrics are often paint a totally different picture. In his song “Nuclear Rainbow,” Wong sings of existential dread plaguing those who desperately try to create a permanent foothold in an oh so temporary life.
Another highlight off the record is the title track that once again paints two different pictures in what the instruments play versus what Wong sings. With the different instruments creating a vibrant and whimsical Tim Burton-like soundscape, at first listen, the song seems quite pleasant and serene. With his sweeping vocals, Wong sings of giving into the existential dread that plagues the mind as the “Nite Creatures will outlast you.” The song is haunting but pleasing, and the unique combination of Wong’s vocals and the dark lyrics make for a rewarding contrast.
As a multi-instrumentalist, Joe Wong brings his A-game on Nite Creatures. Alongside his team of other talented artists and musicians, he paints stunning musical soundscapes that allow the mind to wander into a psychedelic ’70s trance. All the while, Wong uses his lyrics to make anyone tuning in question exactly where they belong in their limited time on earth.