Debut EPs are a tricky business. Half the time, they can seem like an incomplete, haphazard collection of a half dozen songs that don’t live up to their full potential because of lackluster production or juvenile, amateurish lyrics. But if a band manages to put together an EP that’s just really, genuinely, solidly good? That’s a shining beacon that you can only hope is a true signifier of awesome things to come.
Rival Tides’ self-titled debut is absolutely not that first kind of EP. No, it definitely falls into the second category, because despite only featuring seven songs that clock in at under 25 minutes, it packs an awesome first impression.
Rival Tides (previously known as Harris Grade) formed in 2012, but this EP isn’t really the sort that you’d expect after only a year together as a band. Is it perfect? Unfortunately not. Upon the first few listens, it sounds like there’s too little stylistic variation through the majority of the songs, most of which are laden with crunchy, uptempo guitar lines. Then again, there’s also no variety in the quality of the songs: they’re all consistently top-notch, and once you give the EP a few more spins, it’s easier to discern the strengths and differences of each individual song. After that, don’t be surprised if you cycle through it a time or six without realizing it.
“My Insomnia” starts things off strong. The melding of dreams and reality is really nothing new to songwriting, but somehow it sounds totally fresh when Robyn August sings, “I’m finding it hard to sleep somehow / Hard to sleep when I dream about / Everything except right here, right now”. The guitar hooks sound like something out of the Never Take Friendship Personal era of Anberlin with a dash of fist-pumping choruses for good measure.
Across the board, the lyrics are incredibly strong. The heartbroken chorus of “Maybe” is a definite standout, with its embittered lament of “My love, it wasn’t worth your time / My heart, it won’t wait in line anymore”.
Then there’s “How to Catch a Bullet”, which might be the strongest song of them all. It’s made to be played on a Vans Warped Tour main stage. Greg Fulleman’s drums are the real star of the show, but they’ve got strong competition from lush lines like “Moving so quick to leave so soon / Looking for the combination / to the safe inside your secret room”. It’s a similar case on closer “Oceans”: the guitars are the best of the seven songs, but it’s the line “There’s a sea in you” that really draws you in.
It’s like The Receiving End of Sirens, Acceptance, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, and Anberlin all got together and made a kid with all of their best parts. No way you’ll be disowning Rival Tides any time soon, and I can’t wait to see what they churn out with even more experience under their belt.