Rivals – Sad Looks Pretty On Me
Released: 19 March, 2021
Kalie Wolfe // Vocals
Sebastian Clarke // Bass guitar
Micket Woodle // Guitar
Josh Alves // Drums
Let’s get to know RIVALS, shall we? A Los Angeles quartet, this band describe themselves as dark pop-rock and their sound is a bit of techno, synth, rock, pop, and even some hip hop elements blended into a soundscape that is uniquely RIVALS. Sad Looks Pretty On Me is the band’s sophomore album and it’s a gorgeous handful.
Kicking off with the title track, we hear a really poppy beat with strong, clear vocals. Some skipped beats give it an unpredictable feel and it’s a nice mix of synth and rock. Oh and there’s a tamborine in there too, and you know how much we here at Wall of Sound love some good tamborine playing.
It’s inescapable how incredible Kalie Wolfe’s vocals are in ‘Lavenders’ – it’s all you can hear over the bed of guitars and synths. Her control is very apparent, as is the emotion she produces. ‘Change Things’ also highlights her vocals, and there’s a moody attitude boosted by some dirty bass and edgy riffs. We have some guest vocals by Dutch Melrose, and he lays down a smooth verse that adds another layer of attitude.
The lyrics of ‘Strawberries’ really stand out, especially ‘Medicate till I feel nothing / I didn’t mean to say that’. The song is a pessimistic look at growing up and staying alive, and among the infectious melody, you can feel the weight of the lyrics. Now, RIVALS really do have a lot going on in their songs, there’s a bunch of different sounds all trying to mesh, and ‘Little Mistakes’ and ‘On The Loose’ are both a bit busy. They both have some killer elements though: ‘Little Mistakes’ has a great chorus, and ‘On The Loose’ introduces some acoustic guitar which is a nice, slower moment on the album. I think for these songs, sometimes less is more.
But oh man, we need to talk about ‘Fake Rich’. The pop opening leads into some heavy riffs and my ears literally pricked up. Lots of powerful vocals that hold back in the verses and really let loose for the chorus. And we also have another guesty, this time from Cane Hill vocalist Elijah Witt! He brings the growls and darkness in this song, and it’s a great surprise. Also, his deep voice just hits different.
‘Dead Flowers’ and ‘Alkaline’ both are bangers. Exciting vocals, gripping and exciting choruses, these tracks are just plain winners. And ‘Are You Listening?’ is a dangerous track. Something about the bass and guitar offsetting the soaring vocals – it just brings a dark tone. Fitting for it to come before ‘To: Dom’ because that track is deeply emotional. It’s like an apology, or a love letter, or both? Either way it’s an open letter and speaks of some heavy topics. The entire song reflects sadness, and it’s the low before the final high.
Sad Looks Pretty On Me closes with ‘Why’ and I think I could stress cry to this song. It has that sad vibe that thinly veils the simmering anger. You can mosh to this song and also wallow in your depression, and I think that’s a hard thing to balance, so, props.
RIVALS really have a unique sound and use it entirely to their advantage with the way they play with individual elements. Sad Looks Pretty On Me is an exciting whirlwind of stellar production, emotion, and mad beats, and you should listen to this album when you need to feel all the emotions.
RIVALS – Sad Looks Pretty On Me tracklisting:
1. Sad Looks Pretty On Me
3. Change Things ft. Dutch Melrose
5. Little Mistakes
6. Fake Rich ft. Elijah Witt
7. On The Loose
8. Dead Flowers
10. Are You Listening?
11. To: Dom