Gaadge’s cavernous sound and charismatic live performances in basements and bars have made them legends for a generation of Pittsburgh college students, and they’ve already served as mentors to another local breakout, feeble little horse. They won a cult following on the charm and warmth of DIY albums Gaadge and Yeah?, both full of addictive riffs and winning melodic hooks. On the quartet’s new album, Somewhere Down Below, Gaadge leave behind the noise of home recordings in favor of crisp production that opens the door to a wider audience.
Gaadge has been a project for vocalist and guitarist Mitch DeLong for nearly a decade, but the current lineup—drummer Ethan Oliva, guitarist Andy Yadeski, and bassist Nick Boston—solidified around the release of 2021’s Yeah?. Somewhere Down Below is the group’s third full-length, but it’s the first time this iteration of the project has entered a proper studio, working with engineer Matt Schimelfenig (Spirit of the Beehive, the War on Drugs) at the Bunk. Instead of bedroom fuzz, the clean, thoughtful production reveals the core of Gaadge’s songwriting: memorable hooks rooted in the tradition of ’90s indie rock, interspersed with shoegaze and punky rippers.
The adventurous terrain makes sense for a band whose members have been involved in a wide variety of projects. Members of Gaadge also perform with Oliva’s lo-fi rock band Ex Pilots, while Yadeski drums with hardcore punks Little Angels; Oliva and Yadeski also make psychedelic dream-pop in the group Sober Clones. The hard-hitting energy Olvia brings to the kit might have been honed while he played in the blistering punk act Living World. Beyond the internal reference points, Somewhere Down Below is full of nods to legends like Lilys and Swirlies, as well as the electronic-tinged post-punk of Autolux. The lo-fi blur of “Don’t Go There” not only feels like a love letter to Guided by Voices, but it also sounds like it could be an Ex Pilots song, suggesting a shared sensibility between all their disparate projects.
Gaadge synthesize these sounds into something charming and fresh thanks in large part to DeLong’s warm vocals. Departing from the casual delivery of Stephen Malkmus or the airy restraint of Swirlies’ Damon Tutunjian, DeLong takes on the melodic qualities of a self-assured Ben Gibbard. “I said you can’t go that way/You said in here I can’t stay,” he sings briskly against the frenetic guitar and crashing cymbal of “Nanty Glo.” Gaadge’s grasp on pop songwriting also helps distinguish their sound. This strength is especially evident in the sweet hook of “Candy-Coloured,” a standout track where high-energy group vocals carry a carefree melody that feels like running through the streets with sparklers in hand.
While songs like “Sputter” bridge the gap between Gaadge’s shiny new production tools and the DIY sound they’ve become known for, the most memorable songs show off an entirely new side of the band. On “No Go,” gated drums meet chiming, bending chords, and as DeLong’s voice dips into a lower range, the band reveals a sleek edge. The title track is the most compelling of these explorations, incorporating drum machines and shouted vocals. The moments of hero worship and cozy references give Somewhere Down Below a quiet familiarity, but the newfound clarity proves that Gaadge are far bigger than mere ’90s nostalgia.
Correction: Damon Tutunjian sang with Swirlies, not Lilys. This review has been updated.