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.
1. Mary Jane
2. Little Sister
3. Empty Screen
5. White Knuckled Grip
6. Mary, Baking Bread
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