New Kingdom by Givers / Album Review
Back in 2011, the Louisiana-based band Givers became an overnight indie-pop sensation with their foot-stomping, infectiously catchy song “Up Up Up”. They followed the release of their self-titled album with a year of non-stop touring, even squeezing in a performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, but after that explosion of indie fame, they dropped off the map. After two or three years of silence from the band I assumed they had ended things, but was pleasantly surprised this summer when out of nowhere they dropped the excellent single, “Bermuda”. Coming out of their twangy rock and soul influenced 2011 album, the new direction for the band was outlined in this single and introduced listeners to the shimmering electronic hooks that New Kingdom focuses in on.
“Bermuda” is the opener to the record and features a darker, more mature sound that I’m not used to associating with Givers. The track mixes the warm tones of vintage synthesizers with heavily distorted guitars and loud, abrasive percussion. By enlisting the help of producer Korey Richey -- who most recently worked on Arcade Fire’s Reflektor -- the band is achieving a very stadium-ready pop sound, quite different from what they were churning out a few years back. This album’s greatest moments are undoubtedly on the tracks that showcase the talents of singer, Tiffany Lamson (one of the two lead vocalists in Givers). Lamson sticks to her soulful roots on this record, which makes tracks like “Blinking” and “Layback” so magical. On “Mother of Love”, she channels the vocal styles of Stevie Nicks, singing cryptic, borderline nonsensical lyrics that aren’t too far off from something you might hear on a Vampire Weekend song. The closing track “Lightning”, features her voice supported by a full string section and larger than life percussion, which serves as a perfect closer for the nearly hour-long record. Although I do enjoy the vocal style of Givers’ other singer Taylor Guarisco, I think at some points on New Kingdom he just tries too hard to emulate other people. My first listen through the album, I had to check the liner notes to see if Arcade Fire’s Win Butler was guest featured on a few tracks because the similarities were just uncanny. The track “Remember”, sounds like it could be a B-side off the Reflektor album, which isn’t a bad thing, but if I wanted to listen to Arcade Fire, I would. Guarisco does have his good moments, like on the danceable track “Wishing Well” which shows off his impressive vocal range, but overall I find that he falls just a little bit short on the few tracks he does lead.
All in all, New Kingdom is a healthy step forward for Givers. They’ve moved past the simple indie rock songs they were known for back in 2011, and are now boldly venturing into the dancier pop sound that’s dominating popular alternative music right now. Although at times it seems like the band is just trying to emulate the sounds of other popular indie groups, they’re still able to maintain that unique Givers sound that brought them to prominence in 2011. I’m excited to see what the future holds for this band, and I’m just hoping that they don’t try to venture further into the mainstream indie-pop world than they already have here.
Favorite tracks: Blinking, Lightning, Layback.