It’s become a common occurrence for me to jump onto an emerging artist well into their career in the music scene. More than often it’s independent groups like alt-J and Glass Animals, these “new” artists tend to spark my interest with a single song, a single from their past that suddenly draws me into their latest stuff. The most recent example of this found itself in the Boone, North Carolina natives Rainbow Kitten Surprise (yes, that’s what they’re called). With their third album out Friday, I might have stumbled upon what could be my latest folk-rock obsession.
As I slowly unwrapped the quintet’s enticing major-label debut in “How to: Friend, Love, Freefall,” I leaped into the band’s past records in the process, beginning with their first two EPs in 2013’s “Seven + Mary” and 2015’s “RKS.” After picking off some of their biggest hits in songs like “Devil Like Me” and “Wasted,” I quickly uncovered the band’s thick roots in not only the earthy folk that continues to occupy the recent indie scene, but also a sound fueled by a strong spirituality. In an echoing mix of folk, gospel, and polished soft pop, frontman Sam Melo led the group from humble beginnings into what could be their most experimental record yet.
Diving into the record, inklings from Melo & Company’s past albums can be found right from the start, as a 24-second intro (labeled “Pacific Love”) reels the listener in as the band silently harmonizes before rocketing forward. As their next track, “Mission to Mars” begins, the poetic, quasi-rap lyricism of Sam Melo is unleashed. As later singles like “Painkillers” and the ominously addictive “Holy War” steadily build up the record’s deeper meanings, the experimental quality and flow-of-consciousness lyrics of the album begin to define the bold vision at the heart of RKS’ latest. Reminiscent of Cold War Kids’ 2017 record “L.A. Divine” which also sprawled out subtle political commentary mixed with sonic melodies, RKS found its focus in painting compelling imagery of modern society.
Vibrant in its grim yet jocular lyricism, which swerved between the rapid-fire verses of “Fever Pitch” and the Strokes-esque guitar struts of “Matchbox,” the third record from the Boone natives worked as a phenomenal entry for me into their unique Americana sound. While their aesthetic might easily recall artists like Fleet Foxes and Kings of Leon, the group’s aptness to leap between subtle modern rock and smooth R’n’B-folk mix has definitely granted them my attention. A record filled with an odd arrangement of harmony, optimism, and kick-ass production, RKS is bound to become something special.
The latest album from Rainbow Kitten Surprise, including singles “Fever Pitch,” “Holy War” and “Matchbox” is available to stream and buy now.