Races have found the proper home from which to launch their debut in Frenchkiss Records. With Year of the Witch focusing on the struggles of life for those in their mid-20s, this release matches the undeniable emotional charge their new label mates are known for and marks this group as one with a serious future ahead.
No longer just a haphazard band among friends, this sextet of South California natives have each found their rightful role. Former bassist turned lead vocalist Wade Ryff brings noticeable warmth to each track with his accented vocals, bearing striking similarities to The Thrills. The album might be a brooding thought battle, but with the support of dreamy, female sopranos, the burdens become bearable.
Such is the case when venturing through Ryff’s thought process during the departure of a lover on “Lies” or his declaration of promises on “All for You”. Their darkest moments are turned surprisingly poppy with synths brought into an abrupt tempo change and the fuzzy heat of guitars. You’d expect spite in his confessions, changing him for the worse on “Living Cruel & Rude”, but Races use carefree strings and toe-tapping drums to create a pop track with country spirit.
A strong conclusion brews in the midst of their intricate layers of instrumentals. Many of the tracks end in a satisfying manner, but in some, the prolonged length leads to inconsistent ideas. The upbeat folk that leads the stirring “Song of Birds” is lost in an unneeded, startlingly slow waltz, while the meandering guitar and building percussion found on “The Knife” allude to a powerful ending that never comes.
As the group already begins to plan follow-up material, this album serves as a good indicator that Races’ future is well worth watching.
Essential Tracks: “Lies” and “Living Cruel & Rude”