Nothing, the Philadelphia-based heavy-shoegaze crew, have been putting out captivating, immersive anthems since their 2012 debut Downward Years to Come. Since then, they’ve been through a lot, including prison and a degenerative brain disease. There’s nothing romantic about his backstory, but frontman Domenic Palermo—who experienced both of those things—has been open about it, and he decided that leaning into music was the best way to channel his energy.
This pain is at the forefront of Nothing. It’s one reason why this band has resonated with so many dedicated fans. Their music is real and raw—never shying away from a gut punch. Their 2016 record Tired of Tomorrow is one of the most essential pieces of modern shoegaze. “A.C.D. (Abcessive Compulsive Disorder)” and “Vertigo Flowers” boast over a million Spotify streams and took on lives of their own, becoming live preservers for anyone drowning in their own shitty situation. Even though Nothing wrestles with addiction, misanthropy and other dark themes, it doesn’t require an intense history like Palermo’s to relate to their music.
When their latest album, 2018’s Dance on the Blacktop, arrived, fans were taken aback—they still had the same energy and were able to provide some of their best songs of grief yet. To celebrate one of the most consistent shoegaze bands in the game, we’re sharing 10 of our favorite Nothing tracks.
This title track on the band’s debut is surrounded by several acoustic ballads, but it sticks out as the quintessential shoegaze anthem. It foreshadows their sound to come: layered guitars and synths, culminating in an all-consuming vortex with twists and turns.
This acoustic moment on Tired of Tomorrow is special. The typically loud band is at their most vulnerable, surrounded by soft strumming and miserable lyrics. Their insightful, cutting lyricism is at the forefront: “Kneeling / And praying / Are the same / You’re just begging / And that’s a sin.”
This Dance on the Blacktop b-side has evident Deftones influence, making for a more quiet, stagnant space of suffering. It’s surprising it didn’t make it onto the record, especially with its beautiful lyricism: “The window’s rattle a falsetto / The creeps in bed to the taste of meds / I can’t stay here / And waste, away dear.” It’s about an agonizing experience, yet it’s also an endearing springtime song that you’ll want to drive around to while smoking a cigarette.
This first track on Tired of Tomorrow is their best album opener yet. It sounds like a violent whirlwind, and the overwhelming pain is prefaced immediately: “I should know now / That I shouldn’t / Push you away.” The song only has a few lines that are repeated throughout, but they’re all so powerful that you might not even realize.
Beginning with a resigned voice against an acoustic guitar, this song moves carefully before the electric guitars crash in. Throughout this heartbreaking ballad, the band grapples with the complexities of love, time and guilt: “If I wait for you / I’ll be waiting all the time / If you wait for me / I’ll be wasting all your time.”
Poignancy and defeat pervade this track. The opening instrumental signals the destruction to come, and by the chorus, it sounds as if they’re caving in to an inevitable evil: “You know me and you know I am not well / I always knew I’d eventually hurt you.” The guitars and drums build up a clamorous wall of sound, and a potent sense of despondency emanates from it, creating a world of torment.
This track—the opener from Dance on the Blacktop—is further proof that Nothing are great at kicking off their albums. A menacing, cold riff rings out, and some feedback joins in before it explodes into a pitch-black void of an instrumental. This song feels like living inside of a nightmare, and the mumbly, deadpan vocals make the lyrics barely comprehensible, which amplifies its haunting atmosphere.
This anthem moves like an extreme merry-go-round. The vocals are fast, keeping up with the beat with slicing lines: “I’m caught between a beggar’s teeth / Buried in the wilted roses and the pregnant weeds.” The imagery of Nothing’s lyricism is vivid: blood, brokenness and death. Finally, the song culminates in a powerful repetition: “And if you feel like letting go.”
Easily the highlight of the underrated Guilty of Everything, this breezy track is full of gorgeous guitar work and airy vocals. Though it’s brimming with dark imagery, they search for light: “There’s gotta be a place / To escape from the rain.” When they repeatedly conclude, “Can’t find it,” it’s one of the most tragic moments on the record.
This fan favorite is undeniably charming and beautiful. It’s an anthem about anxiety, yet it has a calming element to it, as they freely sing: “And I hate / Everything you’re saying / Anxiety / It’s all about me.” When it closes with evocative riffs and cathartic drumming, there’s an inexplicable peacefulness that overtakes the moment. Though darkness and heaviness control most of this song, a contrasting sensation of weightlessness comes through, and it feels like a warm embrace.