Five years ago, Driver Friendly was hardly even a band. After releasing their debut Chase the White Whale, circumstances forced the Texas natives to put the band on the back burner. While this might have killed off a lesser band, Driver Friendly rallied the troops last year and put out a stellar follow-up, Bury a Dream. Continuing their ascent from the dead, the band has signed to Hopeless Records and released a new EP, Peaks + Valleys, that is chock full of pop-rock goodness poised to propel them to the top of the genre.
Peaks + Valleys is comprised of three new songs and three songs from Bury a Dream. The first new song is the opener “Run,” a track that perfectly represents Driver Friendly’s sound as a whole. It’s a high-energy, uptempo track filled with synth and horns. Its soaring chorus really lets vocalist Tyler Welsh flex his muscles, and it’s his strong, unique voice that gives the band a sound that sets them apart. “I Can See Canyons” has the band showcasing the poppier side of their sound, and the results are an absurdly catchy whirlwind of bouncy guitars and handclaps. The last new song is the album closer “Let the Sun Come Up.” It’s by no means a bad song, but feels a bit dull and tedious, and especially when compared to the rest of the album, comes off as the weakest link in an otherwise shining pop-rock record. All in all, the new songs on the EP are an excellent progression and offer an intriguing peek into where they could go from here.
The most disappointing thing about Peaks + Valleys is that the best songs on it are ones that have been out for a few years. It’s a small gripe, because the old songs are some of the finest crafted pop-rock in quite a while. “Ghosts” is a quick flurry of a song that maintains the melodic tendencies of the rest of the album while simultaneously being the most aggressively rocking song. It relies mainly on the band’s hard-hitting instrumentation over the simple refrain “It’s not death that scares us/ It’s ghosts we cannot see.” “Shark Cave” features a soulful riff over pounding drums and, once again, Welsh’s vocals push the song to new heights. Welsh truly possesses one of the most powerful and interesting voices in the music scene, and the use of dual vocals with guitarist Andy Lane adds an entire other dimension to the songs. And then there’s “Messidona,” the highlight of the record, complete with its Tom Hanks-approved music video. It is an absolute behemoth of a song, perfectly encapsulating everything that Driver Friendly brings to the table. Additionally, it features the best utilization of the band’s horn section, a facet that really gives their sound a distinctive element. On a record of huge pop songs, “Messidona” is the biggest and most impressive of them all.
Overall, Peaks + Valleys serves as a terrific introduction to Driver Friendly, and will hopefully garner them the attention they wholeheartedly deserve. This EP might be a slight letdown for previous fans of the band, simply because of the lack of new material, but if the new songs are any indication of what the band can do on their Hopeless debut full length, we should be in for a treat.