Friday, November 5, 2010

The Riot Tapes: A Sound Like Winter

Up until now, I've featured artists from around the world, though predominantly from the U.S., U.K., Australia and Canada. Lately however, I've been broadening my horizons by looking out in new directions to find new talent and different sounds for you guys to sink your teeth into. This is one of those new directions.
It is my distinct pleasure to present the first ever artist ever to come to NewRockNews43 from Ireland. Out of the city of Dublin, The Riot Tapes are an indie-rock quintet with a uniquely '90s-rock/2000s-alternative sound that blends Garbage-like vocals with Cranberries-influenced instrumentals to provide a new hybrid of indie-rock sounds. Composed at its core of Elaine Doyle (lead vocals), Tim Clarke (keys and production) and Chris O'Brien (guitar, background vocals and production (also bass on demo recordings)), The Riot Tapes are rounded out live by Robert Crosbie (guitar and background vocals), Colm O'Riordan (bass), and Graham Dunne (drums). With this dynamite lineup and a few shining demos in hand, The Riot Tapes are showing that the sounds that abound within the Irish homeland are more than just those of Sinéad O'Connor and U2. Brilliant in their execution, the Riot Tape demos showcase some of the best attributes that set this band apart from others: smoky vocals, gently distorted guitars, and a building rhythm section that lifts a dazzling key-progression to the forefront.
This is no truer than on The Riot Tapes' brilliant lead-off track, "Photograph." Right from the beginning, the melody is set with O'Brien's guitar and Clarke's keys. Doyle's vocals remind me fondly of everything I love about K's Choice and Letters to Cleo, though with a certain power the speaks to a slight Cranberries influence. I love how the drums just fill in, passionately but not over-driven, and the bass is thumping perfectly in the semi-undertone. It is clear to me that with a rhythm section set up like the way this one is, Dunne and O'Riordan must give one hell of a show. One thing I absolutely love about this song is the chorus. It's short, it's sharp, and it's just incredibly catchy. The verses too, though, are soft and strong, perfect for any kind of sing-along accompaniment at a show. This is the kind of song I'd expect to hear on the soundtrack to an indie film, or maybe just something I'd like to have on my car radio during a crisp autumn afternoon. It's heavy and romantic, melodic and poppy, but not overbearing or drowning. For any producers out there looking for a song that speaks to a great marriage of pop-song dynamics to indie attitude, this is it. Just one listen, and I know I'll have this song on my top plays all week. Oh, and did I mention that it has a great bridge and interlude?
The Riot Tapes continue to amaze me with "Open Eyed Dreams," a soft, ballad-esque track that slows things down and makes you think deeply about that relationship it reminds you of. One of the best ways I can describe the sound of this song is like pure winter: the days getting dark early, the cold wind around you, and that special person you wish you could spend all your time with at home, sitting on the couch waiting for you. Doyle's vocals are low and romantic, and the lyrics are so deep-set, it's like she's speaking right to me. The lead guitar notes provided by O'Brien rest lightly on rhythmic chords, which in turn find a home on top of great drumming and bass lines. One thing I'm sure of is that with a bright melody like that one that graces this track, the teamwork of Crosbie and O'Brien on guitar must be amazing live. At just the length of a normal single, "Open Eyed Dreams" is powerful in ways that 7:00 songs aren't. This is the song to play when you're turning the lights down low and drifting off to sleep in the cool night. With heartfelt verses and a chorus that's easy in the truest sense of the word, "Open Eyed Dreams" showcases The Riot Tapes at their most romantic. I can hear the longing in Doyle's voice, and this one is a five-star track if I ever heard one.
And then there's "Everything Is Local." This one is an immediate departure from the first two tracks, and proves the The Riot tapes can do fast-paced songs just as well as deep ballads. Doyle's vocals are almost ghostly, floating all around me as the drumming on the cymbals and high-hats is something for TRT to brag about. I love the way TRT have distorted their guitars with alternative vibes, and their interaction together only serves to bring this song higher. The bass lines are simple, but altogether beneficial to the song, and with a quick wrap-up, "Everything Is Local" may perhaps be TRT's most interesting track, musically and dynamically.
If not though, it certainly only adds to The Riot Tapes' overall unique performance and undeniable talent. An abstract display of how music can be new and different with a classic flavor, songs like "Photograph" and "Everything Is Local" will rejuvenate you and make you nostalgic for a simpler, more romantic time. The Riot Tapes have certainly outdone themselves, and if these are just three songs from their repertoire, then I can't wait to see what else they have in store.

Sounds Like: Garbage, K's Choice, The Cranberries, Letters to Cleo

Key Tracks: "Photograph," "Open Eyed Dreams," "Everything Is Local"

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