Modern Rivals are an infectious blend of indie-pop featuring densely layered guitar, synth, and violin hooks that burst with a cheerful, untamed energy. The six-piece group is based out of NYC and released a five song self-titled EP in March, each track displaying a playfulness that is a little rough around the edges but never clumsy. (As an added bonus, the band has kindly offered the record as a free download online.) Their music swells up in noisy waves, but remains balanced with moments of surprising delicateness as well.
The EP kicks off with “The Accidental,” a track that’s surging with wild and frenetic rhythms, tempered by bells and lively group harmonies, shouts, and chanting. The only way to really describe this song (and the rest of the EP) is that it’s just plain fun — this is music that you have no choice but to jump and dance along to. They manage to perform with a kind of controlled chaos; even when the music soars to reckless heights, there’s still something charming and a bit whimsical about it to soothe the frenzy.
Another favorite is “Matchsticks” – it’s bright, poppy, and a little chaotic, highlighted with sparkling pizzicato. The line in the chorus, “And be proud of what you’ve allowed to exist, this is it, it’s a gift / Shape blood, sound and skin,” makes me think of this song as kind of an ode to living in the moment. There’s also a theremin-esque synth lead featured prominently that lends the song an outer space-like quality and brings some contrast to the more organic guitars and violin. This is a band that’s not afraid to experiment with different instruments and sounds, which makes for music that’s always intriguing and unexpected.
At the moment, these guys play mostly in the NYC area – their next show is a CMJ Showcase October 21 at Lit Lounge. Or if you can’t make it, at the very least you can download their EP (for free!) and be there in spirit.