[9 May 2014]
One listen to the Colourist’s sun-soaked indie rock recalls soaring ‘80s melodies, glossy guitars and keyboards, and modern indie pop sensibilities. After the release of last year’s Lido EP, and gaining buzz from their recent single “Little Games”, the Orange County quartet bring us their eponymous debut that’s surging with the infectious songs of a band that’s raring to bring their radio-ready rock to the masses. For all their hunger though, The Colourist as a record doesn’t give the band their own unique identity.
Adam Castilla (vocals/guitar) and Maya Tuttle (vocals/drummer) share the reigns of fronting the band after previously collaborated in the dance-rock outfit Paper Thin Walls. The group’s music dips into the hooky tendencies of fellow Los Angeles indie pop acts like Foster The People and Grouplove. The Colourist possesses their own sound, but on their first album, it sounds like they’re still in the process of shaping it. I found Tuttle to be the standout member in the band. She not only delivers instantly danceable drum beats behind the kit, but her pixie-like vocals are my favorite part of this record. That’s not to say Tuttle’s vocal counterpart, Castilla, doesn’t carry his weight. Castilla’s voice is an equally innocent foil to Tuttle’s, but it didn’t bear the same emotion for me as her performances. The co-vocalists help the band’s sound dramatically as Castilla couldn’t lead this group by himself. Tuttle not only complements Castilla, but eventually steals the show completely.
“Little Games”, the band’s hype-garnering single, leads off the album and swings for the fences. The track glides on a funky guitar riff that also has an airiness to it. Moments like this allow the Colourist to soar as a unit. The band’s tendencies lean toward indie-pop with full band instrumentation instead of utilizing drum machines and production effects. As a result, the Colourist’s music sounds more DIY and organic.
When Castilla and Tuttle join forces and weave their bright harmonies together, like on the second track “Wishing Wells”, the band are a formidable pop-rock force. Along with this song, the front half of this record delivers an uppercut of fist-pumping, body-moving music. I caught myself listening far more to the first five tracks on The Colourist than anything toward the end. By the time you’re halfway through the record, the music begins to feel generic and cookie-cutter. While the music is pleasant to the ear, these tracks don’t grab your attention. The music begins to blend and the four-to-the-floor bass drum breakdown used in almost every song’s breakdown grows stale. Too often the band plays it safe and I was left wishing they had taken more risks.
The majority of the upbeat lyrics deal with the pains of maturing and progressing past young heartbreak. The cheerful yet myopic narrators can’t look past the present moment and “never want the night to end,” as Castilla lets us know on the bouncy “Tonight (Young Hearts)”. This sincerity makes for the most honest moments on the record. By doing call-and-response style vocals with Tuttle, the pair recreate scenes of youth falling in love for the first time and unsure of what their relationship has in store for them. “Stray Away” is one of these contemplative instances on The Colourist where the band are able to show a different shade in their sonic palette.
The Colourist’s debut demonstrates the band’s ability to write a breezy pop tune, but overall, the music lacks true staying power. Despite this, their warm sentiments and sunny disposition make it no coincidence that this album came out in the spring on the cusp of the summer season. I’m positive that some of these tracks will appear on many driving playlists for weekend cruising with the windows rolled down or at house parties that last until the wee hours of the morning. After all, at their core, that’s what these songs are about: embracing the moment and not thinking of tomorrow’s consequences.