WRITTEN BY: MEG
Back in 2018, RIVALS released their successful debut LP, “Damned Soul.” Three years later, the band has returned with the release of their sophomore album, “Sad Looks Pretty On Me.
The album begins on a strong note with its title track, “Sad Looks Pretty On Me.” The synth-driven verses showcase the poppier influences found throughout the rest of this record, and the extremely catchy pre-choruses build up to even catchier choruses that have remained in my head since I first heard the track.
That song showcases the various influences found on the rest of this record and within this band’s sound very well, and there are quite a lot of other songs on here that do the same. The synths and percussion in “Change Things” help build the song up to its harder-hitting choruses where the rock influences really get to shine, and the synths, bass, and drums drive the rhythm of “Are You Listening?” leading up to its huge chorus, which contains a striking vocal performance - one of many found throughout the album. “Dead Flowers” is in a similar vein, as synths hard-hitting drums drive the beginning before another anthemic chorus is brought to the table, and “Little Mistakes” puts a bit of a darker twist on the album, and showcases the blend of pop and rock influences within the band’s music from beginning to end.
“Lavenders” contains performances from the vocals and drums that really stand out, especially leading up to and during the huge choruses, and “Alkaline” - another track that perfectly showcases Rivals’ sound and variety of influences - does the same, with more stellar performances in its choruses. “To: Dom” is one of the most powerful tracks on the whole record, featuring so much emotion from start to finish both within the performances and the heartbreaking lyrics about the loss of a loved one. The album reaches its conclusion with “Why” and while the instrumentals take a bit of a step back during the much softer verses, the vocals provide an attention-grabbing performance in the pre-choruses and choruses, and the song overall wraps up the album really well by incorporating the various genres and styles found throughout the previous tracks.
There is a bit of experimentation to be found throughout this album as well. “Strawberries,” a single that hinted at this experimentation early on, is driven by an energetic rhythm during the verses (where the poppier influences are showcased and the vocals put on another strong performance), and those verses prepare for the much bigger chorus where the harder-hitting instrumentals really kick in and the vocals continue to stand out. “On The Loose” is - for the most part - a more laid-back track, with more simplistic instrumentals and melodies as the song builds up to its choruses, and the bridge strips the song down even more as the acoustic guitar and softer percussion accompany the vocals. On the other end of the spectrum, “Fake Rich” emphasizes the rock influences within the band’s sound, and even shows off a heavier side with the bridge/breakdown offered up later on. Prior to that, the vocals deliver a gripping performance that only gets better as the song builds up to its anthemic chorus.
“Sad Looks Pretty On Me” showcases the evolution of RIVALS’ sound over the past three years. There are many impressive performances found across its twelve tracks, and collectively, they make up an incredible sophomore LP from the band.
"SAD LOOKS PRETTY ON ME" IS AVAILABLE NOW. LISTEN TO THE ALBUM HERE: