Photo: Nina Ljeti / Press

Wallows — Quarterback

In a bittersweet beginning to the 2021 music slate, Wallows has released the Remote deluxe EP, their final music for the time being while they are hard at work on their second album. The updated EP’s tracklist includes “Quarterback,” the laidback “Another Story” and the croon-y, romantic “On Time” in addition to the hit single “OK” and its accompanying remix with Remi Wolf and Solomonophonic.

It is “Quarterback,” though, that thrives on a nostalgic sonic vision wrapped in the feeling of longing, all while bringing fans (at least visually) closer to the group.

The track has a muted, throwback sound that feels like the soundtrack to a skatepark in the early ’90s, or perhaps a beachy film montage, though the lyrics tell a different story. It maintains an upbeat presence while presenting a story of doubt and near-heartbreak lyrically, giving it a signature and eccentric Wallows sound.

Unlike previous Wallows tracks, though, there’s a twist: Cole Preston provides the track’s vocals, making the song somewhat of a rarity among the group’s discography. It’s a pleasant surprise; the track plays out as if it is designed to be heard alongside a cinematic visual, and Preston’s vocals are a key contributor to making “Quarterback” an easy song to play on a loop. The other piece of the puzzle, naturally, is the track’s lyrics.

If there is one thing the group consistently succeeds at, it is storytelling with a dynamic and generally fresh sound; “Quarterback,” like previous singles “OK” and “Are You Bored Yet?” spins a familiar narrative into a poetic and sometimes unconventional track. The first verse allows for the interpretation that this song is about the “will they, won’t they” debate, the uncertainty when one isn’t sure if the end is near (or already here): “I’m anxious, pacin’ / Thoughts are racin’ / Is this over? / Why won’t you call my number?” 

It becomes clear in the pre-chorus, though, that whoever isn’t calling might just be worth waiting for. Preston sings, “You said, ‘I’ll be alright’ / I knew by the look in your eyes / But any time you want, you know I’ll be the one / Racin’ to your door, even against the odds,” solidifying that the end of the relationship, fling, or summer love is apparent, but wishful thinking will keep the longing intact.

In addition to the drop of the deluxe, Wallows released an accompanying visual for “Quarterback,” and it hits close to home. The video features Dylan Minnette, Braeden Lemasters, and Preston performing the track in a collection of VHS-style footage. Though it doesn’t exactly follow the track’s narrative, it breathes into the spirit of home videos; it isn’t quite as personal as the lyrics suggest, but the video gives fans some semblance of proximity to the group while they await their next body of work. Additionally, the fisheye lens used for some of the video’s key shots add to the evocative nature of the video, making the group’s “at-a-glance” moments in the visual feel rather immersive.

The complete package, in conjunction with the twist of Preston on vocals, makes “Quarterback” an easy addition to the best of Wallows’ catalog, and the visual adds to the gratification that comes upon first listen. More than anything, “Quarterback” (and the rest of the Remote deluxe EP) feels like a proper send-off to the studio for Minnette, Lemasters, and Preston; in symbolic solidarity with the song’s lyrics, we’ll be waiting for their call, too.