Rainy Day Crush – I’m Still Alive – EP Review
If you are familiar with the music of Rainy Day Crush, you’ve become accustomed to change. Heck – if you’re familiar with LIFE then you should be accustomed to change…I suppose it doesn’t just apply to this band specifically, but they sure have been through a lot. If you look back fifteen years ago, you’ll find their first record Free To Go…and you’ll notice that today, Matt Specht is the last man standing from that original lineup. As mentioned – LIFE gets in the way from there…Rainy Day Crush takes a nearly thirteen year hiatus before returning, reinvigorated with a new lineup. They put out an EP they called Calamity! – which we reviewed here at the page back when it came out…and shortly after it was released into the world, their lead-singer left the band, leaving the future of RDC more up in the air than ever before. That time that was meant to be spent celebrating the release of Calamity! became inevitably mixed and tainted by the departure of their former band-mate, leaving them to figure out what that next step might be…if there was even going to be one. You musicians out there…many of you know what that moment can be like…the instability and fragility of that moment where one departs can often be the end of the entire band or project in many scenarios and has proven to be so many times throughout music’s history. If they were to continue on – they would somehow have to fill the space left behind…and then of course, at the very least, a head count of who’s not ready to give up just yet.
Those of you out there that checked out episode 042 of the SBS Podcast already know how they found the way to overcome their lineup shakeup – but in case you missed it, Rainy Day Crush internalized and discovered the answer had been a part of the band all along. OG Matt took on the vocal duties for their 2017 release of the I’m Still Alive EP and put in an inspired performance that sounded determined and focused to not let go of the dream for a solitary second…a performance that shows Rainy Day Crush is still alive, thriving, thrashing and kicking…that there is still plenty of life in this project and no reason to slow down the momentum they’ve built between them since coming back to existence after 13 years. So together, Matt (Vocals, Piano, Guitar) and his two cohorts, Mike Wynn, Jr. (Drums, Vocals) and Derek Schattl (Bass) reworked, revamped and adapted their sound to suit the advantages of a three-piece instead – and he we are today – you’ve been caught up to speed on Rainy Day Crush. You’re welcome.
I like to think we all build on our history, learn from our past and evolve, no matter what the situations or circumstances in our lives are…that experience all counts for something, good or bad. I’d never disrespect the past members of a band…because they would have contributed something to that experience, which again, would make the entire chapter of that journey a worthwhile one to have been a part of. I liked what Betsy brought to the vocals of Rainy Day Crush…it was my sincere hope that what they’d now accomplish with Matt at the helm would simply accomplish the task of not making me miss that sound in their music too much; I’m confident that I can say they’ve managed to do that…perhaps even exceeded my expectations in that respect – I think this EP really sounds tight, focused, fun, & deep.
They’re certainly not hiding the switch in the vocal department – Matt starts out the melody of the opening cut “No Such Thing” immediately…and if you’re familiar with the sound of Rainy Day Crush, you’ll instantly hear you’re in for a whole new part of their adventure. Before I forget to write it down – MIKE…you’re a beast back there on the kit brother…every time I heard this song when I was playing the EP, that was something that continually stood out on this first track. The pace, part & playing is actually quite demanding at times and Mike is back there pounding it all out like it just ain’t no thang. Smooth. Okay…where was I? Right – the beginning. “No Such Thing” has a decent verse and a chorus that slays; kind of like one of those bright & catchy rock/pop combos you find in All American Rejects…similar big hooks in the execution of the song’s biggest moments and plenty of vocal melodies to go around. I think you gotta hand it to Matt…reading the story of the journey of Rainy Day Crush is one thing, it’s another to live it I’m sure, and then beyond that, it’s a whole different trip to listen to something like the energy of “No Such Thing” and feel like he hasn’t skipped a beat. It’s an excellent opening cut for the EP and a standup track overall…the moment that it kicks-in to its main rhythm & groove and Derek steps in to strengthen the sound with the low-end punch, this song really kicks into gear and continues on a hot roll from there. The chanting backing vocals sound like they’ve got their own pep-rally happening in the background while they play this tune…lyrically it’s a sound & solid mix of emotions and energy that comes shining through the hooks of the chorus on “No Such Thing.”
We played “Heartbreak (Or How To Get Over It)” on the ol’ Podcast last week in preparation of releasing this review out there…you know, just to give ya a taste of what was to come. There’s lots to love about this tune, first thing being that it really confirms that, while Rainy Day Crush might have taken a turn towards more of an edge to their sound – their spectacular use of melody and stunning songwriting is still firmly intact. I love the way the music of “Heartbreak (Or How To Get Over It)” began…I’m not even remotely kidding when I say I could go for like, an additional 2-3 minutes of that as an intro and I’d never be bored with that sound. As it stands, it hits quick, moving instantly into the guitar riff that fuels the verse and is damn near as strong as any melody you’ll hear in the vocals on this cut. Loved the tone, loved the performance…I loved the way that Rainy Day Crush continually chops up the flow with inventive beats & fills from Mike that assist massively in shifting the sound of the music, evolving the structure and leading to really interesting transitions that grab our attention. Another stand-out chorus, perhaps an arguably more balanced track from verse to chorus in terms of what the ears will notice…there’s pretty much hooks all over this song and some really smart choices being made here in how they’ve recorded, performed and mixed it. Big vocals, smooth in their sound when they want to really hang onto that melody and bold when the energy comes up in the music, supported at the flanks by impressive harmonies and backing layers that complement the lead really well. Could it be a bit more polished in that sense? Maybe – but I’d argue that the freedom of expression reigns supreme here and that the wild mix of the layers of vocals, especially towards the end, really communicates the sincerity & emotion of the song’s overall theme, subject & sentiment if you’re paying attention. So take that!
“You Think” is potentially single-worthy in my opinion, Rainy Day Crush finds a seriously solid groove here while tackling some pretty damn heartbreaking stuff in the lyrics. The strong contrast of emotion in the words combined with that empowered energy in the music and tone of the vocals in the chorus is likely to be something that people will really remember. Highlight moments for Matt on the piano on “You Think” and how well he interacts with Mike and Derek in the rhythm section…the band is dialed into a really meaty & deep groove here that some people could like just as much for the vibrant imagination & creativity in the music as others will for the darker introspection of the lyrics will latch onto. Like me! I think these are some of the best moments for Rainy Day Crush on a lyrical level overall – I won’t deny that I think the writing of the hook in the chorus and the words at that point in time on “No Such Thing” might still take the cake for me – but I love what’s happening throughout this entire cut and how real it all feels here. That’s the beauty of contrast ultimately. I’m a victim of the fact that I generally write for the vibe of the music…and I’m not making a claim that Rainy Day Crush hasn’t considered that in writing “You Think” – but I think where contrast exists, you also get more of a genuine insight into what’s really on someone’s mind when it comes to lyrics being involved. That make any sense to anyone out there? I’m just saying that, “You Think” makes you realize that the struggle in Rainy Day Crush has certainly been real…these emotions are tough ones…but there’s no mistaking them for anything other than genuine in my opinion…that was the impression that this third cut left on me. Personally, I seriously dig it when people give us the unfiltered reality of their emotions in music – if I was to hazard a guess…I’d certainly be willing to float a theory that much of “You Think” could possibly be describing the immediate aftermath that surrounded the days, weeks & months after the release of their last EP. Don’t quote me on that…you know me & my crazy theories…but if you listen closely to the words of “You Think” – even without knowing the full story, one might assume it’s autobiographical.
I hear a song like “Bonfires” and the first thing I think to myself is ‘thank the stars that not everyone out there feels like they have to write songs for the radio.’ I mean that in the best of ways. “Bonfires” isn’t meant to exist in the top-40 – it’s the song you seek out late at night…that experience in music that you want to share with your friends because it has its own distinct and gripping vibe. That doesn’t make it a ‘hit’ despite its inherent captivating charisma on display – but thankfully, bands like Rainy Day Crush are capable of creating art just as much as they are capable of creating a hook. They make a clear choice here to ditch the flashier sounds and more easily digested pop-rock melodies to create a really moving, meaty & weighted experience that is loaded with expression & beautiful, melancholy moments along the way. Put it to you this way…even with as much of an impression as they can make with the more upfront hooks of the first three songs, I certainly wouldn’t discourage the band from pursuing ideas as strong and tightly written as “Bonfires” is. To me…this song SOUNDS like satisfaction…like you can hear the sheer collective will of this band seeking to pull the stunningly dark beauty in this melody off as well as could possibly be done…and from the music to mix, lyrics to performance – every one of them brings a slow-burning intensity to the role they play on “Bonfires” and a focus that is straight-up inspiring to listen to. Because let’s face it…”No Such Thing,” “Heartbreak (Or How To Get Over It)” and “You Think” all sound like songs that you KNOW Rainy Day Crush could crank out for years and experience a solid amount of support and success…but it’s in taking chances on a more riskier cut like “Bonfires” that the rewards of the journey & authentic love of the art of making music truly reveals itself, on multiple levels.
Really solid job on the I’m Still Alive EP. Rainy Day Crush is audibly still going strong and absolutely still has a ton to offer the ears in this new chapter of the band’s legacy…and most importantly, the players that remain still sound completely 100% into it…and it’s because of that, that we as listeners, are too.
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