Cooler, a Buffalo-based three-piece, creates deeply personal, ethereal indie rock fit for the most intimate of moments.
Doom Spiral, the group’s 2023 release, is their best work to date. The album centers around themes of opposition and devotion while persistently shifting between a confessional love story. Throughout the project, distance between people is a constantly developing undulation. Cooler braves this emotional disparity while engaging in intricate heart-to-heart discussions.
The group fills out their already-strong sound with layers of carefully-laid, familiar guitar lines, sludgy bass flavors, and newfound sleek electronics, resulting in a sound they describe as “dreamo.”
The album’s intro, “Gentleman,” was the first recorded with their current lineup, currently consisting of Alley, Jake, and Nick Sessanna. Breaking through the mist, the song’s flagship guitar line is as sentimental as it is catchy, while Alley’s reserved, melancholic delivery dazzles amidst lyrical dejection.
“Succulents” is a meditative groover that aims to escape from reality while reflecting on pain. Cooler mentions how the song describes a “proverbial, pain-free paradise,” as the lyrics dream about being “anywhere but here,” no doubt referring to these tough winter months in Buffalo.
“Infinite’s” cycling guitar lines swirl around the head, blurring your vision with a dark haze while increasing intensity with each turn. A blend of electronic and acoustic drums punctuate the track before a jagged-edge guitar solo tears through the æther, ending in a plummeting distortion outro.
The sun sets as the nocturnal “Slowride” begins. The dramatic 90’s shoegazy intro is somewhere between confidently menacing and relentlessly vulnerable while swallowing up your attention like a black hole. The shadowy song speaks about a forever love with alluring conviction.
Emotional gashes are pulled even further back on the next song, “Unspoken Promise.” The song’s crisp sense of hopelessness is emphasized by a stark, foreboding soundscape driven by a grumbling electronic bass line. A bitter guitar riff lashes at the heart, while a cold electronic snare sound throws salt on the graven wound. A refrain of “You can take your time, but you can’t take mine” brings to mind earlier themes of distance, but some animosity fades away here on the slightly less dim chorus. Cooler supplements the stark electronic percussion sounds with a live drum kit for this short change in mood, right before the song’s dissent-filled objective returns in the next verse.
Cooler regains some cosmic wonder with the world on the bittersweet, “Stargazer,” a clean, dreamy pop-rock tune. In one of the project’s many fantastic moments, there is a balance of male and female presence between Alley’s tuneful performance and Nick’s cooing vocal features.
Doom Spiral’s mellow acoustic outro, “Regretter,” reminisces on the past, while evoking a poetic indie-pop-rock sound of the 2000s. Alley admits to wrongs, yet understands her worth within a dynamic, winding-country-road melody.
This album is a heart-wrenching and cathartic experience. It stares down the things that separate us and the love that brings us back together, attempting to understand the complications on both sides. Successful in this process, each member leaves their indelible mark on this project while being informed by different backgrounds and musical opinions.
Cooler’s emotionally-complex art seeps into relational wounds with an overwhelming sense of relatability. Doom Spiral fills that space between you and your truer self, your partner, or even the greater world around you.