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The Royal Army Recording Co.
Mary, Your Ghost Is Showing EP
Royal Army Recording Co.

Here's a pleasant surprise - a fine EP from a hitherto-unheard of (to me anyway) Frostburg, Maryland musical collective. Heck, they don't even have an entry on the All Music Guide for me to crib from!

The Royal Army Recording Co. is a large group of musicians and artists who work together to run a label for their members' various projects. When recording under their own name, they're led by the elusive K.Tompkins, who writes and arranges all the songs, sings and plays guitar and keyboards. As well as being able to pen a great tune, he also writes some really interesting lyrics.

RARC's music is really original - it sounds like fairly standard Britpop to begin with (more in the original Kinks / Small Faces vein than the mid-90's likes of Blur, though), but made much more compelling by some folk influences and quirky, unobtrusive samples. With a 6 song EP there's room to look at each song individually, so here goes.

"Mary Jane" is a bright, bouncy track to start off, with some nice slide and fuzz guitar plus sweet vocal harmonies (I'm a sucker for those). The song starts off with a strong Byrds sound, but gets more Britpop as it progresses.

"Little Sister" is a nice slow ballad with acoustic guitar and more great harmonies - think the quieter moments of Teenage Fanclub - it's that good.

"Empty Screen" brings the tempo back up and is probably the best song here, with strummed guitar giving way to driving bass and drums and some soaring trumpet. I can't quite place the influences here, but it has one of the record's best lines: "You were once a projector / now you're just an empty screen I see."

"Roulette" is another folky, acoustic ballad, with prominent flutes; it ends with some creepy samples and a woozy loop. This one reminds me of Elf Power, with the nice line "I know the sky, but you make it blue"

"White Knuckled Grip" changes the pace once more - nice and bouncy again, with the harmonies and strummy guitar bits making a welcome return.

There's also a hidden, instrumental track, "Mary, Making Bread," tucked away at the end - more than a mere throwaway, this one has some interesting banged-metal, bell like sounds.

Overall this is a strong, intriguing debut - I'll be looking out for RARC's first full length with anticipation.

-Gareth Bowles

Track Listing:
1. Mary Jane
2. Little Sister
3. Empty Screen
4. Roulette
5. White Knuckled Grip
6. Mary, Baking Bread

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