Rivals’ album Damned Soul sticks out among an array of other so-called pop rock projects for its emotional nature and the overall way in which it connects with you. The album isn’t full of aloof tales about relationships and breakups. Rather, it consists of musical explorations of the darker parts of life, including times when we have to leave behind people we’ve been around for awhile. Here, on Damned Soul, complicated and potentially overwhelming feelings turn into songs.
An example of this would be when, on “Low,” a single from the album, vocalist Kalie Wolfe sings, “I don’t know what to feel, what to feel because it’s never ending. I just need, I just need an escape.” It’s a lot all at once at the beginning of the song but there’s an air of understanding in the music. The slick presentation counters the at times anguished lyrics, providing a fuller picture of an emotional state that isn’t so extreme and no doubt hits the nail right on the head for many people.
Essentially by definition easier to digest than complicated life situations, the songs on Damned Soul sit on that crossroads between songs that kick you in the gut and songs that are fun to dance to. The music is confident; apparent special effects mixing in with the melodies reinforce the themes in the songs. The musical side of the album is really something to digest; it provides a space to think about the artistic presentation — and even about life as a whole. It’s physical feeling, energetic music.
Wolfe has an interesting vocal range, lending a voice to the alternative music scene that isn’t necessarily already there.
It’s worth noting that the songs even venture into community-building thematic territory, with the band making such a transition smoothly. The album goes from the memorable track “Gunslinger,” on which Wolfe sings about being trapped in a “nightmare,” to – after one other, also memorable track – a song on which Wolfe triumphantly sings “We are the wild things!” There are very few, if any moments on the record, that aren’t memorable.
Damned Soul is dark, but not too dark. Realistic might be a more encompassing descriptor than dark. It’s refreshing to listen to music that is realistic, in a sense; it makes it easy to connect with and meaningful when you do connect with it.