Music

River Whyless Address the Cultural Zeitgeist on Their Latest Release

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

On their third full-length release, Kindness, A Rebel, indie Americana outfit River Whyless address important issues by simply acknowledging their overwhelming presence in daily life, circa 2018

Kindness, A Rebel
River Whyless

Roll Call

8 June 2018

It's difficult to sustain one's art in this day and age without referencing our fractured political landscape. Though the seeds of discontented darkness have been at the forefront of our country for close to two years now, each day continues to bring about a barrage of grim encounters. The sad images of family displacement both here and abroad constantly inhabit indelible spaces in our heads, while around us the news cycle spins an endless supply of greed, corruption, and disarray. Underneath the headlines, the tough issues of financial, race, and gender inequality are all being valuably discussed and addressed, though sometimes the folks with the biggest pulpits see fit to move along as if all is well.

On their third full-length release, Kindness, A Rebel, indie Americana outfit River Whyless address all of these important issues by simply acknowledging their overwhelming presence in daily life, circa 2018. In press interviews announcing the album's release, band members spoke about how the aim of the recordings was not to offer up set-in-stone solutions, but rather start a productive dialogue and a constructive conversation about things that are happening. With the news cycle moving at a fever pitch, this approach may not make the album a universal listen for decades to come, but it does certainly spark the band's intended consequences.

"Born in the Right Country" explicitly addresses the issues of white privilege and systemic oppression. "Can you really blame me, built on a system where some must fail so that you can break through if you've got the right skin,' the band sings over nervy beats that crescendo into a pleading chorus.

"The Feeling of Freedom" addresses the Sisyphean task of working multiple jobs in order to make ends meet. You work yourself ragged only to see your bank balance fall short in the end.

Elsewhere, "Darkness in Mind" examines deftly examines folks with differing viewpoints trying to settle on some sort of common ground without any preconceived notions getting in the way. "New Beliefs" possess a sunny harmonic bent that softens the harsh lyrics that take on some of the preconceived notions of organized religion and groupthink mentality. And, "War Is Kind" is just flat-out devastating performed as a lilting lullaby to an afflicted orphan.

The quartet (Ryan O'Keefe: vocals, guitar; Halli Anderson: vocals, violin; Alex McWalters: drums; Daniel Shearin: vocals, bass, harmonium) formed in the mid-2000's while they were students at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. Following graduation, they relocated to another in-state mountain town, Asheville, and soaked themselves in the musical heritage of the region.

While their prior releases were more folk-oriented, here, the band expands their palette. There are shivering synths that anchor the songs and conspicuously hum under the layers of sound. Infectious handclaps and group singalongs serve as nifty accompaniments to plucky violin strings, searing guitar solos, and danceable bass riffs. Though the subject matter may often be downcast, the arrangements and sonic interludes keep things from getting overly maudlin and distressing.

As River Whyless spend the summer touring the country with this new album as a backdrop, it's likely they'll have more to say about its thematic elements. Hopefully, their aims and intentions are fulfilled, and a healthy dialogue with audiences comes to fruition. Even if that fails to materialize, these songs pack enough conversation topics for days of introspective listening and examination.

7
Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Film

The 10 Best Films of Sir Alan Parker

Here are 10 reasons to mourn the passing of one of England's most interesting directors, Sir Alan Parker.

Music

July Talk Transform on 'Pray for It'

On Pray for It, Canadian alt-poppers July Talk show they understand the complex dualities that make up our lives.

Music

With 'Articulation' Rival Consoles Goes Back to the Drawing Board

London producer Rival Consoles uses unorthodox approaches on his latest record, Articulation, resulting in a stunning, beautiful collection.

Film

Paranoia Goes Viral in 'She Dies Tomorrow'

Amy Seimetz's thriller, She Dies Tomorrow, is visually dazzling and pulsating with menace -- until the color fades.

Music

MetalMatters: July 2020 - Back on Track

In a busy and exciting month for metal, Boris arrive in rejuvenated fashion, Imperial Triumphant continue to impress with their forward-thinking black metal, and death metal masters Defeated Sanity and Lantern return with a vengeance.

Books

Isabel Wilkerson's 'Caste' Reveals the Other Kind of American Exceptionalism

By comparing the American race-based class system to that of India and Nazi Germany, Isabel Wilkerson makes us see a familiar evil in a different light with her latest work, Caste.

Film

Anna Kerrigan Prioritizes Substance Over Style in 'Cowboys'

Anna Kerrigan talks with PopMatters about her latest film, Cowboys, which deviates from the common "issues style" approach to LGBTQ characters.

Music

John Fusco and the X-Road Riders Get Funky with "It Takes a Man" (premiere + interview)

Screenwriter and musician John Fusco pens a soulful anti-street fighting man song, "It Takes a Man". "As a trained fighter, one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is to walk away from a fight without letting ego get the best of you."

Books

'Run-Out Groove' Shows the Dark Side of Capitol Records

Music promoter Dave Morrell's memoir, Run Out Groove, recalls the underbelly of the mainstream music industry.

Film

It's a Helluva of a World in Alain Corneau's 'Série Noire'

Alain Corneau's Série Noire is like a documentary of squalid desperation, albeit a slightly heightened and sardonic one.

Music

The 15 Best Americana Albums of 2015

From the old guard reaffirming its status to upstarts asserting their prowess, personal tales voiced by true artists connected on an emotional level in the best Americana music of 2015.

Music

Dizzy's Katie Munshaw Keeps Home Fires Burning with 'The Sun and Her Scorch'

In a world turned upside down, it might be the perfect time to take a new album spin with Canadian dream-pop band Dizzy and lead singer-songwriter Katie Munshaw, who supplies enough emotional electricity to jump-start a broken heart.

Music

Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers Bring Summery Highlife to 'Ozobia Special'

Summery synths bring highlife of the 1980s on a reissue of Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers' innovative Ozobia Special.

Music

'The Upward Spiral' Is Nicolas Bougaïeff's Layered and Unique Approach to Techno

On his debut album for Mute, Berlin-based producer Nicolas Bougaïeff applies meticulous care and a deft, trained ear to each track, and the results are marvelous.

Music

How BTS Always Leave You Wanting More

K-pop boy band BTS are masterful at creating a separation between their public personas and their private lives. This mythology leaves a void that fans willingly fill.

Music

The Psychedelic Furs' 'Made of Rain' Is Their First Album in Nearly 30 Years

The first album in three decades from the Psychedelic Furs beats expectations just one track in with "The Boy That Invented Rock and Roll".

Music

Fontaines D.C. Abandon the Familiar on 'A Hero's Death'

Fontaines D.C.'s A Hero's Death is the follow-up to the acclaimed Dogrel, and it features some of their best work -- alongside some of their most generic.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.