Published May 13, 2016As Canadians welcome the warmth of sunlight back into our day-to-day and greedily grasp at it, so, too, we welcome Strange Light, a new EP from Hamilton psych-swooners Young Rival. Culled from the same sessions that fed their October full-length release Interior Light, these five tracks are sweet, straightforward and seem tailor-made to soundtrack forthcoming summer shindigs or to be lost in thought to during a road trip.
Sonically split into two halves, the first three tracks are the fetching, hook-heavy, bounce-along type that Young Rival do so well. Drummer Noah Fralick's playing is punched up in its production, there are tambourines shaking, Aron D'Alesio's vocals are reverbed nicely and bassist John Smith continues to carry songs with neat runs (albeit none as fun as anything he played on Interior Light or earlier releases).
"Lucky" is a boisterous beauty of a riffer, with a snarky refrain of "I don't owe you nothing" and plenty of gratifying stop-starts; "Let Me Go On," featuring curious lyrics like "She said she got saved by the miracle cave, and don't know what to do about it" — the same cave mentioned in Interior Light's "Living Like You Should"? — is reminiscent of early Rival cuts in how it hits, courtesy of D'Alesio's jangly guitar playing.
The bright and spirited "Oh Nancy," with its memorable chorus, doesn't stray from the path forged by the two earlier tracks, and if "Oh Nancy, oh Nancy, I've got your number" isn't in your head as the song fades out, then you must be immune to earworms. Honestly, Young Rival seem to have an endless supply of catchy choruses that just ooze out of everything they release.
The remaining tunes, "Heard It All Before" and "Strange Light," feel like the embodiment of sunlit afternoons or woozy warm evenings in good company. There's warmth to final track "Strange Light," which plays like a softer "Night Song" off 2012's Stay Young with its surf-happy strumming and hypnotic melody. Grab your baby good and close for this one.
Yes, Young Rival are still fun. Yes, they're still very charming. Some things shouldn't change — particularly if they play this tight and sound so right. (Paper Bag)