Title: For The Love EP
Release Date: 2009
Review By: Scott L
- Couple In Times Square
- Hope Like An Ocean
- The Matterhorn Song
- ‘Cause They Ain’t Got Love
First off, Riley a 4-piece out of Whittier, California is not to be confused with the alt-rock band, Reilly. For a number of reasons… none of which have to do with spelling. So the Riley in question, and which is currently fidgeting under the close scrutiny of my musical microscope, plays a groovy brand of indie rock. Equal parts jangle and funk, there were times that my closest comparison was The Rolling Stones, like on “The Matterhorn Song”. And I’m certainly not saying that’s a bad thing, but for the most part Riley’s sound would fit in well on a playlist with bands like Kings Of Leon, The Shins, and maybe even Cobra Starship in their more accessible moments.
Production on “For The Love EP” left a bit to be desired. At times it came off sounding almost like a live recording while at other times it sounded like a poorly tuned radio station. But, hey, this isn’t a big label show pony we’re reviewing here… it’s an indie band. And indie does as indie can. Take it or leave it. Production woes aside, Riley shows a lot of brass in paving their own musical trail into seldom trodden directions. My only beef with that was that there were moments where it felt like they were trying to do way too much all at once. Other than that, the majority of the songs on this 9-song EP were enjoyable and tended to stick with me throughout the day.
Lyrically, Riley came off a bit underwhelming. While there were glimpses of real creativity, for the most part it was a bit simplistic. And a bit repetitive. Not much on the spiritual side of things although there’s the mention of “the good lord” in one song. Relationships and keeping hope alive are the flavor of the day. Consider the song “’Cause They Ain’t Got Love”, a tune reminiscent of early Bleach which says, “the weight falls down like the rain in the clouds / and the love pours out like the blossoms that sprout / let nature take it’s course and love progress / don’t worry about that boy that you have to impress / the girl falls out with the boy that she loves / she finds herself in the warmth of a hug / remembers the promise she made three years ago / and who she has to think about letting go / you’re lovely just the way you are / don’t let that punk break your heart / don’t let the world define you / ‘cause they ain’t got love / you’re lovely just the way you are / little brother’s gonna fight them and give them scars / don’t let the world define you / ‘cause they ain’t got love / the boy goes home and starts to think to himself / where did I go wrong / did I bring this on myself / I don’t know any good that can come out of this / I guess I better start sorting through this mess”. Or how about “Obsolete”, an acerbic tune about the downside of life’s search for true love, which says, “I feel so obsolete / my heart skips a beat / for you / don’t complain an inch / ‘cause my only wish / is stay true / don’t leave me standing here / when I could be standing there / next to you / don’t complain an inch / ‘cause my only wish / is stay true / I feel so incomplete / waiting by the sea / for you / don’t complain an inch / ‘cause my only wish / is for you / I feel so all alone / waiting by the phone / for you”.
These guys are trying to pioneer a very fresh sound that combines a whole lot of great elements. The gist of my review is that some of it works and some of it doesn’t. In my opinion, of course. But like every hockey coach’s favorite saying… 100% of the shots you don’t take, don’t go in. I liked the effort and much of the outcome… and with a little streamlining, Riley could pull the rug out from under a large chunk of the market and capitalize on creativity rather than imitation.
The standout track was “Hope Like An Ocean” which is a groovilicious song featuring a mix of male and female vocals. Lead singer and guitarist, Spencer Alfonso says of this song, “Hope Like An Ocean is most likely the song that I feel captures the essence of my purpose for making music. A lot of people in this world are just stressed out about anything that goes wrong. And a lot of it’s just that you can’t control everything that goes on in your life and the things that go wrong. And that’s why I wrote Hope Like An Ocean… to have a message in my lyrics to help out the world a little bit… with a cool little melody. And I think a lot of people respond to that song the most because of the message and the words. Everyone feels down at one point in their life and everyone wants to get picked back up.”
Overall: Riley is a band that needs some fine-tuning and focus. But if that falls into place, look out. So for the time being, check ‘em out… but remember it’s a work in progress.