In 2010, River City Extension released their fabulous debut, The Unmistakable Man. After enormous praise and a massive increase in fanbase, the eight members decided to put together the follow-up only two years later. Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Your Anger shows a vast improvement in technique, structure and talent. While there are flaws to the record which ultimately drive the level of strength downward, the strengths here far outweigh those of the previous album. In a nutshell, the sophomore effort has better tracks. The debut was just much more consistent.
Now that I have completely given away the overall analysis of the record, perhaps I should backtrack and actually dig into a bit of detail (think: Fight Club). The opener “Glastonbury” is extremely reminiscent of modern Manchester Orchestra, as is the third track “Slander.” They display a dark and almost tribal layout which only seems to further escalate guitarist/vocalist Joe Michelini’s folk-ish power. In the midst of all the Andy Hull-esque techniques, you can’t help but hear Michelini reaching deep down and delivering a near-perfect John Nolan similarity. At times, the resemblance is absolutely stunning, and while the two talented comparisons are to be noted, I must address Michelini’s raw abilities as both a unique singer and songwriter. On “Slander” the country element is outstanding and absolutely relevant – a haunting, yet twangy arrangement displaying colors of emotion which is a definitive standout in the front half of the album. Noteworthy on “Slander” is cellist Jenn Fantaccione, as she is absolutely stunning in displaying the eerie backdrop.
“Welcome to Pittsburgh” portrays a distinctively familiar sound, alternative and astoundingly comparable to The Shins. My own determination on the track is still partially up in the air, mainly because it just throws you off. The landing spot of the track is extremely curious as well. It falls fourth, after three mostly gloomy songs which only give way to further gloom. No big deal. Then there is “Down, Down, Down” which is virtually identical to any Straylight Run track (John Nolan references everywhere). The intense and passionate feeling behind the vocals is a clear sign of the relation. One thing that always seemed to carry Straylight was the ability to be overly intimate with the words they used and the tone they backed it up with.
The record’s highlight comes immediately before the ultimate downfall. “Ballad of Oregon” and “Everything West of Home/Brooklyn (Reprise)” set elegant and imaginative tones which unfortunately do not carry on. The two folk anthems deliver in rhythm and harmony beautifully and with truthful inspiration. The creativity which sparks, or ignites within the nine-plus minutes (between the two) would give the record a solid rating as a standalone. The folk element is at its highest within these two cuts, and especially in the front half of “Everything West of Home.” Throughout the entire album, it is the one area that seems to stop everything. Kind of like a standstill moment, you just throw the part on repeat over and over again (again, think: Fight Club).
Ultimate downfall: the album’s last four tracks. One of my biggest pet peeves is when an album ends poorly, or just “less good” than the rest of the album. On The Unmistakable Man they saved the best for last, with “Waiting in the Airport.” The track concluded the album in astonishing fashion and without the song, the record would have lacked. While the rest of the album was extremely balanced and acceptably pleasant, the ending really made for a fine conclusion. With Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Your Anger, the final four songs simply let the air out of everything leading up to that point. Although extremely disappointing, one still has to take the album in its entirety. The first ten tracks really do speak for themselves (with obvious leaders of the pack) but in all honesty, the blow is unnerving.
Still, I could not tell you which album is better. One (the first), being much more consistent with no real flaws, but limited in track power – the other (the second), having dominant songs that completely overtake the rest of the album, but lacking in consistency. As of now, rating both an 8.0 just seems to make sense. However, this is a review on the latter, so for that reason I will attest to the band’s ability to add an entirely new product to the world: Something molding folk with rock and country with alternative, as well as maintaining a dark and spiritual theme throughout. Overall, this collection of songs further progresses the band into the modern day indie revolution that is in our midst. In fact, it puts them right at the forefront.
For Those Who Like: Straylight Run’s The Needles The Space – Manchester Orchestra’s Simple Math – Fleet Foxes’ Fleet Foxes