Posted on March 29, 2016
Lovers of alternative rock are in for a treat as RNDM (the side-project of Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament, singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur and The Fastbacks/War Babies drummer Richard Stuverud) release their second studio album, Ghost Riding. The album was released on 4th March 2016 and is the follow-up album to their 2012 debut album, Acts. Ghost Ridingpossesses a variety of tone and mood in its eleven tracks, ranging from the uplifting groove of ‘NYC Freaks’ or the feel-good indie rock of ‘Got to Survive’ to more slower songs such as the chilled alt rock found in ‘Trouble’ to the almost blues-based soul-inspired sound of ‘Stronger Man’. I found the track, ‘Comfortable’, a dreamy indie rock ballad to be the album’s weakest song and found it to be even silly at times but I think this is mainly due to the band’s playful character being particularly evident in that song, as it is in the band’s music videos.
The thing that impressed me the most about RNDM and their latest album was their ability to experiment with other genres whilst retaining their own consistent sound, pioneered by the vocals of Joseph Arthur. RNDM infuse southern folk with alternative rock in their new album’s promotional lead track, ‘Stray’. Initially beginning with a country-beat reminiscent of a spaghetti western followed by Joseph Arthur’s vocals, the song picks up pace as it heads into a feel-good alt-rock inspired chorus. The colourful and almost-cartoony music video (featuring the band members) was released in January 2016 and whilst promoting their new album’s lead song, shows off the band’s playful persona.
Another track on the album that’s definitely worthy of attention is the opening track which, in my opinion, truly stands out from all the other tracks on this album. ‘Stumbling Down’ begins with an almost transient industrial-electro march that builds up into an impressive alt rock that personally reminds me of the Arctic Monkeys and their style of alternative rock. The song also features an impressive electric guitar solo and good drumming from Richard Stuverud. Overall, ‘Stumbling Down’ is an excellent choice for RNDM as the opening track to their new album but I personally feel that no other song on the album comes close to topping this one, except perhaps ‘Dream Your Life Away’.
A much more ambient and chilled ending to the album, ‘Dream Your Life Away’ contains elements of not just the band’s consistent alt rock styled sound but also elements of psychedelic pop and electronic music. Its chorus has lyrics that would be more commonly associated with an indie-sounding song than this track, but it works in combination with the strong instrumentals that back it. These instrumentals deliver a simultaneous sound of rock and psychedelic pop that give this track its character. ‘Kingdom in the Sky’ is another one of my favourite tracks on the album. Opening with a slow, simple but catchy ‘kick-back’ beat, followed by the mellow but prominent vocals of Joseph Arthur, the song becomes a dreamy indie ballad before taking a more rock-like direction with the introduction of a triumphant rock guitar soon backed by Arthur’s chorus. The track returns to its slow, dreamy tone before culminating in an uplifting chorus.
Not a bad album at all overall and definitely a recommendation for alternative rock fans everywhere. Although maintaining a consistent sound that places itself firmly in the alternative rock genre, RNDM use Ghost Riding to also touch upon other genres such as psychedelic pop, electronica, folk, indie, blues rock, and soul. This visible attempt by the band to experiment musically deserves RNDM praise, as creating a variety of sound whilst retaining a consistent musical trademark simultaneously is never an easy task for any band. This album is definitely worth a listen and shows that alternative is still an enduring genre of music, even in 2016.