Californian six-piece Underwater Track Team are a folk-pop band that proudly display their influences and are keen to draw upon them (Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, Fleet Foxes, etc.), whilst still clearly trying to retain their individuality. Their self-titled debut EP, released this month, has been made available to download for free via their BandCamp page and offers five songs of plucky guitar and tight vocal harmonies.
Opening track 'The Call' is the band's elected single, and begins with the sounds of the beach before the strings begin to be strummed in the familiar folksy style. Soon accompanied by "oohs" and "aahs" and a drum-kit eager to be heard, the lyrics then begin to guide us down a carefree road of positive self-confidence.
"We're on the rise, You can't deny,
We hear the call.
We are the kings tonight,
We are the queens tonight."
Even without the shoreline and seagull samples, 'The Call' has a wonderful summery vibe to it that should be applauded for evoking such feelings during a cold and miserable March day.
The watery theme continues into the second track, 'Waves', which talks of fear and making mistakes - likening all the worries to the heavy pressure of water. Yet this song is more uplifting than might appear, and the final lines tell us why:
"I never know how far I'm going,
I only know how far I've come.
All the things that have been done,
To make me strong."
As we hit the middle of the EP there's a brief change of style. 'Set Me On Fire', with its smooth-jazz attitude, lounge-bar aura, and female lead vocal, certainly sticks out amongst its neighbouring folk-fests. Yet, lodged between them all as it is, the track provides a healthy and welcome contrast, and also proves that Underwater Track Team are no one-trick pony.
As we approach the end of the record, penultimate track 'It Won't Leave' is back in familiar territory and yet is almost certainly a high point of the EP. The haunting harmonies - particularly on the frequent "oohs" - are spine-tinglingly good (echoed, coincidentally, in the lyrics themselves) and when the piano hammers its way into the second half, the whole tune becomes a glorious example of what this band can do.
The EP ends with 'Keep The Light On'. Although perhaps a less adventurous track than the others, it's swaying rhythm and final drum beats bring the record to a satisfyingly comfortable close.
Recorded and produced in a way that keeps their sound live and untainted, this debut release has some fantastic highlights that are worthy of exploring.
"Being able to still make records is a privilege. I don't take it casually" - Tori Amos