Perhaps it is appropriate that Search Parties' debut EP, the seven-track Strange Woman / Soul Revival, has a title more befitting a lost Doors single than pensive but forceful indie rock. Early in the album, the band uses some of the language of rhythm & blues-influenced rock & roll -- snaking guitar lines, roiling organ chords, soul-deep vocals -- to convey emotionally knotty material that might elsewhere be the provenance of emo aggression or sad-sack indie mopery. And there are traces of those and other like genres on the album, but throughout Search Parties uses muscular, rhythmically driven arrangements and Elliott Pearson's strong voice to push these songs towards the anthemic. (It may be instructive to note that Search Parties were largely unheard around town before its set of Arcade Fire songs at least year's An Under Cover Weekend; the band wasn't being coy about its influences.)
"Every Dime" starts the album with an honest-to-God Springsteen count-in ("Hunh! Two! Three! Fo'!") to herald a song from the perspective of a high-school athlete looking for connections and struggling with stifled small-town expectations. You don't hear stories of soul-searching football players outside of Friday Night Lights reruns, but it's rich terrain here. Those themes of disappointment and displacement will reappear on many of these tracks, but they're never matched with despair. This is a band that shoots for little triumphs in every song.
Despite a fluency with pop hooks and dynamic arrangements, Search Parties shows little interest in turning these songs into quick-hit singles or cloying sing-alongs. Most songs stretch out past four minutes, and the briefest track, "Tangerine," uses string arrangements, bright trumpets and a loping shuffle to carry Pearson's most throat-scraping transmission in a marriage of prettiness and slight brutality. Dylan Doughty's plunking keyboard and Danny Newgent's wiry guitar lines square off to give "Elsah" some pep, aided by a tumbling, stop/start rhythm that gets sewn together by a dolorous violin pattern. And yeah, the title track kind of sounds like a Doors song, a nice little bluesy boogie with fuzzy guitars to end a record that can veer toward navel-gazing at times. But it's a strength of Strange Woman / Soul Revival that a seven-song EP can transmit a coherent sweep to Search Parties' sound and lyrical concerns and still throw a few stylistic surprises in the mix.
Stream the album in its entirety below:
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