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Album Review: Strange Love by The Solarists

Well produced, well performed, and not afraid to challenge conventions, “Strange Love” is another great addition to the Provo music collection.

By Alessandro Improta

Formed in October of last year, The Solarists have quickly made a name for themselves within the Provo music scene by playing free shows at The Garage, performing well during the Summer 2016 Velour Battle of the Bands preliminaries, and putting out their debut EP at a high profile dual release show with Grey Glass last week. With their unique brand of rock that’ll keep you guessing, their new, entertaining EP, Strange Love is a great listen. 

Strange Love is probably a good title for the EP. Strange is a word I would use to describe The Solarists: their music is different, and not what you’d expect. I think that description is a good thing about 90% of the time. On occasion they take some risks that maybe don’t work out quite the way they hoped. Or, more likely, it was exactly as they hoped, but I just didn’t catch their vision.

The Solarists start the EP out brilliantly, in my opinion. The ocean sounds and cymbal rolls perfectly compliment the simple, muted guitar riff that opens up “Green Glass Sea.” They keep adding different elements – vocals, drums, a second guitar – but it all stays very relaxed and low key. This makes the swell, and eventual loud distorted guitars that roll in around 1:18 come out of nowhere. It will take you by surprise in a way that will make you nod your head in approval.

Clint Purser playing the saxophone in concert.

Soon after this, however, is one of those moments where I’m not sure I catch their vision. After just under 30 seconds of playing this loud, distorted section of the song, they abruptly switch the riff to the bass and go back to the relaxed setting of the first verse. I think this takes away some of their momentum moving forward. While this is great part writing (passing a motif between voices), keeping the bass grooving on that riff makes it so when they go back to the distorted section in the second chorus, there’s no punch. The first drop was so effective because the bass came in hard with the drums. The second one isn’t as effective because 1) The bass just continues doing what it was doing the whole second verse and 2) The chorus isn’t a surprise the second time around. Going forward, I’d love to see future arrangements from The Solarists that keep brilliant moments fresh and new the entire way through. That being said, this is a great track – especially as an opener.

“Young Blood” is a perfect example of The Solarists playing to their pop-rock sound. Reminiscent of a Walk The Moon track, the dancy bass line and 16ths on the hi-hat are about as pop as you can get. However, in classic Solarists fashion, they change things up in the chorus by going into a half-time groove that still feels like 4/4 but simultaneously feels like a time change into 6/8. My guess is this will be one of the more popular songs on the EP, but in my opinion it probably ranks third or fourth out of the five tracks. There’s some dang good stuff that goes on during the EP’s run time.

“Temporary,” in particular, does some awesome stuff. It opens with a sexy groove before exploding into what initially sounds like finger tapping on the guitar run through some weird effect. It takes your brain a moment to recognize that it’s a saxophone. A saxophone! It’s a very, very nice touch. The Solarists also make great use of falsetto oohs. They sit back in the mix and don’t distract while still adding atmosphere. The solo sections are on point. There’s a climactic build at 2:56 before Nate Wall, who takes over lead vocal duties from Clint Purser on this track, erupts into a scream. If “Green Glass Sea” lost a bit of steam as it went on, this track builds momentum all the way through.

The title track, “Strange Love” is, appropriately, probably their strangest. The verses have this slight latin beat going on. Imagine the reggaeton beat played on a drum kit, and that’s kind of the feel of the verses. Again they do the half-time feel in the chorus, but this time it definitely goes into a 6/8 feel – more so than a slower 4/4. None of it really makes any sense, but it all feels so appropriately out of place. We know these things shouldn’t exist next to each other, but they do, and it feels right. I think it is the right title track for this EP. It isn’t the best song on the EP, but it encapsulates what The Solarists are about more so than any of the other songs: great part writing, intricate rhythms, challenging song structure, and passionate vocal delivery. There are moments on this track where Purser sounds a bit like Neon Trees’ Tyler Glenn. 

Reviewing this EP was a pretty good experience. I’ve listened to the EP probably 10-15 times, and because of all the varied sections in every song, it never quite gets old. At the same time, I never feel like I can quite settle into a groove listening to it, so it never quite does it for me either. I am torn, and I think that’s a good thing. It’s a rock record. A real rock record. It’s actually challenging conventions. Because of this, though, I know that it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Either way, it’s well produced, well performed, and the band is full of great minds that are writing some intricate music. I would definitely recommend that you give it a listen, and I would recommend seeing them live. We got the chance to see them when they performed at Velour’s Battle of the Bands and were really impressed with their performance. All in all, The Solarists’ Strange Love, is another good addition to the Provo music collection. Keep your eye on The Solarists.

Make sure to like The Solarists on Facebook and give Strange Love a listen on Spotify below.

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