Coming from Brighton, United Kingdom, THYLA is a self-described alt-rock/grunge rock/psychedelic-rock 4-piece group. The style they’ve gone after has its share of influential acts in the 90s and early 2000s, like Pearl Jam or Stone Temple Pilots, and has made something of a comeback in the indie circuit with groups like Warpaint and The Dead Weather. Their debut EP War, released December of last year, has its moments that do well to promote the styles of these genres. Being a live recording, however, the EP does have its spots that could use some polishing.
In the opening track, “Sticky Red”, the feel of the song is difficult to follow, and I can’t find any real narrative to get attached to. The chorus repeats “Are you gonna swim? Are you gonna swim for me?”, and maybe it’s deliberately not obvious what they’re getting at, but they certainly don’t make it easy. Instrumentally and rhythmically, coupled with some strong vocals during the chorus, the song has some very catchy instants that would make me want to see them play live.
“Fate Tells Lies” starts out much more structured, and seems to have more of a sense of cohesiveness to it. At around the 1:50 mark, however, the song changes direction from a big, expansive feel to a minimalist, tight sounding section absent of big chords to drive the big emotion. “Cornfields” is probably the most consistent song. The feeling is slow and melancholic, emphasized with lead vocalist Millie Duthie’s light voice, and some sombre guitar lead from Maxfield Fletcher. The drums trudge it along at a slow, foot-tapping pace that ties it all together. I would consider this to be the strongest song on the EP.
The vocals dominate the songs, but not necessarily in a good way. They fall victim to some poor mixing during the live recordings, and often I found them too loud over the rest of the band. On top of that, to put it bluntly, the singing leaves room for improvement. Millie has the right voice and pitch that is easy to listen to, and could well be a strong vocalist, but throughout the EP she throws her voice around without much control and it often feels like she’s trying to sing. To get that effortless feel, keeping the vocals in a tighter range and with a style appropriate to each song would do wonders. The good news, though, is that this is easily fixed by recordings with better equipment and in a better environment, while also adopting a ‘less is more’ approach.
I don’t hear a lot of grunge or psychedelic on War, and it comes out with more of an alternative/folk feel. Perhaps having too many influences led to each song feeling a little unrefined, but with time and experience TYHLA can find their own style that feels true to them as the artist and to the audience. For a first time listener, I feel as though they haven’t quite found their niche yet. More consistency in their song writing approach would help each song feel discrete among the rest. The EP absolutely has its moments where the band shines and writes a catchy hook, a strong breakdown, or the perfect bass line to compliment the vocals, and now the task is to take those moments and expand on them to write what could be a very strong follow-up release.
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