Spotless Mind mix up style on new release

   Self proclaimed “eclectic punk” band, Spotless Mind, broke onto the Tulsa scene in 2018 with their self-titled debut EP.  Less than a year later, the band has come back with their second EP, “A Matter Of Opinion.”

   This release finds the band shifting away from the soundscape of their debut. Originally boasting a more traditional punk sound,  “A Matter Of Opinion” is softer and more subdued. From an acoustic track to a song that resembles Blink-182, there is a less intensity found here. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but a point that will remain important throughout this review.

   One initial stand-out feature comes in the bass work. Many songs here are driven by the instruments, as it frequently sets the main hook. Tonally, the bass is soft and muted, which often compliments the more fuzzed out guitar sound. This allows for an interesting juxtaposition between the two sounds, creating an engaging listen. Couple this with drums that are fun and full of life, and instrumentally, this EP shines.

   Standing far above the rest of the EP, “Peachy” is sardonic track that discusses the meaning of being a man, and the uncertainty of life. A distorted guitar takes the ultimate lead, shredding through riffs and solos. This song captures angst and confusion in a swift three minutes and can bring a good chuckle with some of the lyrical wit displayed.

   Another standout is “Tripped And Fell.” This is an incredibly catchy number where each band member is firing on all cylinders.  Starting strong with an excellent guitar lick, the track builds tension through the verses until a euphoric chorus releases all tension with an anthemic sing-along.

   While the album has a lot of solid moments, an unfortunate gripe must be had with the aforementioned shift in sound. While the actual shift is not inherently bad, the new approach leaves the vocals confused. On the self-titled EP, the harsher sound was complimented with a grittier vocal delivery. With this softer sound, a more melodic approach is necessary. Unfortunately, this is not always a well suited shift.

   Most tracks do not suffer from this issue, as all but one do not seem too bogged down. The one track that does take a hit is “Happy Sunshine.” The chorus falls flat, with not enough vocal energy being pumped through it.

   As a whole, this project is good. While the shift away from a more distorted sound does not always work, many interesting production and lyrical choices keep the EP’s head above water. Everything here is just “peachy.”

Lilac Kings’ “Goodnight” proves band’s sheer talent

   Insanely catchy hooks, well-crafted lyrics, and incredible raw talent. These are the first thoughts that come to mind when asked about Lilac Kings, a post-hardcore band that has begun to turn a lot of heads in the local music scene. “Goodnight,” the band’s first studio album, releases February 8.

   An album of this quality deserves praise, right out of the gate. For starters, the band is intensely talented. Vocalist and guitarist, Dylan McBride, has a voice that demands attention. He has the typical flares of a post-hardcore/pop-punk vocalist, yet makes himself unique by how emotive he can be. This is not to mention his vocal range, which is one that could rival pop-diva, Mariah Carey. (Alright, this may be exaggeration, but the impressive range remains.) Mate Lucas lays down bass work that is extremely intricate. He is the classic example of a bassist that deserves much more attention than he receives. That being said, the same applies to brothers Cameron and Skyler Wilkerson, on drums and guitar, respectively. Both know their instruments well and play them better than many of their peers. Skyler truly helps bringing the ambient, yet heavy tones to the music, and Cameron provides drum work that is memorable and does so much more than “provide a beat.”

   “Goodnight” finds the band at a new peak, despite only having one past EP, titled “What Brings Us Back.” This is not to discount the previous release, but to praise the quality of this one. Each song has a distinct sound, yet still are incredibly cohesive. This is a experience, not a simple collection of songs. No, there is no real overarching concept, but from the first second of “Where We Are in the Stars,” there is an air that this album is going to take you on a ride.

   “Where We Are in the Stars” is an interesting starting point, as it opens with a quote from astronomer, Carl Sagan. His inclusion points out how vast space can be, and how we are a simply “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” This is then juxtaposed to a more intimate relationship, in which the narrator sings about finding a place in the stars for him and his significant other. The production remains fairly empty, which helps to evoke the space themes that are omnipresent.

   Immediately following this more ambient sound, comes the gut punch of “Don’t Pretend.” This finds the band at a political high, as they take aim at individuals who fake anxiety and depression for attention. This glorification of mental illness has become a growing social problem, highlighted by the success of “13 Reasons Why.” This show/book display mental illness as something desirable, whether intentional or not. While it is not the sole reason that this beautification of a very serious problem has become more relevant, it does effectively demonstrate the point that Lilac Kings sing about in this track. McBride sings, “I’m so sick of pain and suffering being a fashion statement,” effectively creating one of the most powerful lyrics in the whole album.

   Speaking of lyrics, this album consists of engaging story-telling throughout. “Swallowed Whole” is one excellent example of this. The song deals with inner turmoil, as a man struggles with what to do after he discovers his significant other has cheated on him. As the lyrics imply, this person plans to kill the man who slept with his partner. He warns himself to “control your guise/ Or else you’ll see her for the last time,” showing how he wants to hold onto the girl, despite his urges to “put the gun to” the paramour’s head.

   A lack of any real criticism for this album is fully intentional. Every track has a unique personality and is very well produced, despite the band having a presumably small budget. If any negative was to be said it is that “Imagine Life Without Color” is a fairly uninteresting track. Most other tracks on the album consist of an interesting melody, or some fascinating drum work, but this track has little to make it stand out. This being said, it is still a good song, just does not quite match the quality of the others.

   Praise is endless for this album, and in rapid style format, more highlights go as followed. “Drive Me Home” is a high octane track with one of the catchiest hooks, especially highlighted by the bouncing bass and mini guitar solos. Opening with some light piano, “Atrophy” is an instant highlight on the album. This song shows the band firing on all cylinders, and is a predicted fan favorite. “Goodnight” closes up the album on a more subdued note (although it does ramp up in the final moments). While the band does the “knock you back in your seat” sound very well, this softer track shows their ability to do quiet with ease and ends the album on a beautiful note.

   Lilac Kings is a band that demands attention. The sheer talent of all four members is outstanding, and each track they craft has such immense quality. “Goodnight” is an incredible listen, all the way through.

Rating: 9/10

Listen to the album here: