Review – “Ice Storm” – Rival Boys

by Eleni Armenakis album.jpg

It’s hard to imagine anyone getting anything done during the ice storm/blackout that literally took Toronto by storm only a couple of months ago. Which is probably why it’s even harder to imagine Rival Boys putting together an entire EP in the aftermath of the mess—let alone pulling it off in a single day.

Aptly named Ice Storm came together in a single-day live-off-the-floor session, and mixed together the next day at Toronto’s Revolution Recording Studio with Joe Dunphy. But despite the fast pace of the recording, nothing about Ice Storm sounds rushed or rashly thought out.

The album fuses songs with a harsh wail as it moves from the gritty and melodic “Do Good” to “Young and Old” while sister/brother duo Lee and Graeme Rose pair up their gutsy vocals. The vocal notes flare out with city-tinged rockabilly while drummer Sam Sholdice brazenly keeps pace on the drums, bursting with the same intensity as his bandmates.

Fuzzy riffs and distorted notes contrast appealingly with the smoothness of Lee’s voice as she moves from belting out choruses to easing back in slower sections as the music leaves rooms to breathe. Particularly rewarding on the ears is her shifting depth and tone on “Young and Old” while the drums march steadily behind and the electric violin, also by Lee, sets the melody.

But the energetic opening tracks belie what else Rival Boys are capable of as Graeme lays out an anxious, imagery-laden slow song that captures the very essence of a Canadian winter on “Black Pine.” The captivating track is only a brief interlude as the EP re-energizes for “Sober and Single”, sliding between gritty rock and empowering, catchy hooks fueled by the dynamic vocals.

As Ice Storm moves gently into its final song, it’s hard to believe the EP is ending. The five songs aren’t enough to satisfy the hunger they create, which makes the band’s follow up full-length release coming in May most welcome.

 Top Track: “Young and Old”

 Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent)

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