Brooklyn-based quartet Iola recently released their four-track self-titled EP, and I have to say it’s a solid collection of songs. The band’s sound is consistent throughout, and it possesses no distinguishing feature anyone could dislike. That being said, it ventures on the safe side of new music, but I’d rather listen to a good, safe record than an awful, experimental one.
My favorite track is the EP’s opener, “Nikwasi.” This song has the most depth musically, with an undulating surf-western twang that reminds me of a bit of Jesse Sykes And The Sweet Hereafter. The vocals are sweet and curt; female lead vocalist Carey Sveen has a bizarrely familiar voice. I can’t quite put my finger on who she sounds like, but Nina Persson of The Cardigans comes to mind. The tension between that eerie western haze and Sveen’s naive voice is what makes the song for me. I’m also partial to its thumping tempo, which mimics the pace you imagine Sveen stepping along to as she sings:
“I walk in a circle away from you, away from you, away from you.”
Track two, “Leiligheten,” is a bit less ominous sounding than “Nickwasi.” It’s more on the dream-pop side, sweetly lamenting a one night stand. It has this nostalgic sound to it, almost like a middle school slow-dance ballad. “El Trueno” is the EP’s most surf-influenced song. It maintains the band’s conflict between sugar and gin with a peppy verse and a foreboding chorus. I appreciate Iola’s ability to retain consistent qualities without being gimmicky. It seems as though the band has put a lot of consideration in creating songs that are pleasant at the start and bitter at the finish.
The final song on the record, “McRae,” is admittedly my least favorite. It’s not bad by any means, just a bit generic. It fades out with an anthemic sing along that’s a little too Edward Sharpe/Of Monsters And Men for my liking. It does, however, stick to that characteristic tension: it’s a very “nice” song, but lyrically it is rather “not nice”:
“jail’s nice and empty//but the meth’s started cooking// teeth already falling from our heads”
There aren’t a lot of bands delivering lines about crystal meth from the lips of a waif-y blonde girl, so you have to give Iola that at the very least.
They’re a local band, so if you’re in the neighborhood, check ’em out.
Listen to “Nikwasi” here, via Soundcloud