By Jackie Lam
For those who have long been endearing devotees of Eastside darlings RACES, the day has come for the release of their highly anticipated full-length Year of the Witch. The six-member outfit originating from what was supposed to be a one-time jam sesh among musical pals that unexpectedly turned into a collaborative wunderkind of fortutious songmaking has created an album that does not disappoint.
A follow-up to their 2011 EP, Big Broom, YOTW is the band’s first album under Brooklyn’s Frenchkiss Records and offer s a handful of fresh tracks and there’s a bit of room to breathe, and space to experiment and toy around with.
Highlights include “Year of the Child,” a brief opener and gentle prequel of sorts to the title track, a sampling of sorts crescendoing harmonies and lush string patches. Lead singer and guitarist Wade Ryff and the bright vocal stylings of Breanna Wood complement one another magically. “Song of Birds” is rooted in more traditional sensibility of a modern rock ballad, with a playful sound patch that resembles the mimicry of birds. “Lies,” threaded with an expansive, lush guitar melody, is one of my favorites. There’s also a sterling recording of “Big Broom,” their signature hit and one that was on steady rotation on local airwaves and music clouds alike. The one they made that memorable music video of. You know, the one where they’re all smushed up and cozy in a sea of colorful balloons.
The 12-track record highlights the dense textures, organic writing, and seamless harmonies that make up the band's signature sound. There's a bit of wistfulness and an understated lyrical quality to their music, without reeking of oversentimentality. And as accomplished as the album is for RACES, there's really nowhere to go but up.
Year of the Witch is out and is available for purchase at Insound, Amazon, and your local friendly neighborhood music shop. A few tracks are available for streaming on their bandcamp page.