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Afraid Of Heights sounds bigger and more ambitious than anything Nathan Williams’ former backyard solo project has ever recorded. The big-name producer and studio certainly help; so does the three-year break between Afraid Of Heights and 2010’s breakthrough King Of The Beach. But unlike Wavves’ previous records (including two simply titled Wavves), Afraid Of Heights doesn’t sound like it’s filled with first-take toss-offs. The lo-fi garage surf stomp feels worn in this time, like Williams and partner Stephen Pope actually stepped away from the bong long enough to give the mixes a second listen.
Wavves doesn’t necessarily stray outside of its comfort zone on Afraid Of Heights. The best songs—the distortion-packed handclap-punk of “Mystic,” the cello-enhanced “Dog,” the hang-10 surf-pop of “Paranoid”—keep close to what they know. Everything just sounds fuller and more cleanly produced than the ragtag recordings that made King Of The Beach an indie hit. Hill brings out the artist in Williams, who no longer seems satisfied with just good enough. — The A.V. Club