Within the first 20 seconds of their new EP, Naturalist unleashes a jarring declaration of their unlikely hybrid of low-key rock and raw punk styles. The OKC band’s distinct sound plays better than one might initially imagine. It doesn’t hit all at once, but draws the listener in with some familiarly tender guitars and atmospherics before walloping the ears with a raw, uncompromising bout of shouting, restrained just enough to form coherent words. These are the lead vocals, and they pull the listener through a heavy dose of angst and despair over the course of the record.
The instrumental elements have their distorted moments, but for the most part, Friends appears to relish in its contrasts by keeping the swirling alt rock vibes coursing under the overt lead vocal tone. This dynamic brings out unexpected dimensions in each. There are a number of other vocalists featured on the album as well, bringing a welcome variety that serves to bridge these contrasts.
One of the striking aspects of the Friends EP is the track titles, heavily hinting at its conceptual intent. They are all one word and read, in sequence, “I Wish You Were Here.” Each of the five songs explores its word in the context of the album’s overarching themes of religion and relationships. While the tortured vocal delivery ensures that there are some painful thoughts and feelings at the heart of these songs, they don’t always translate into words. The lyrics here aren’t always as poetic as they might aspire to be, but there are a few moments that feel profound within their context of the clever structure of the album in full. For instance, the track “Here” ends in a poignant refrain that posits heaven and hell as concepts on Earth rather than places at a distance. It’s one that lingers well after the record has ended.
This is an album crafted with passion and meaning from the ground up, and it shows through in the performances. If you’re looking for a little more screamo in your indie rock or a little more introspection in your hardcore, this is well worth checking out.
This article was originally written for Literati Press (literatipressok.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.