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Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s new album deserves the hype

| Monday, April 23, 2018

Joseph Han | The Observer

After several years of playing most of their sets in close proximity to the campus of Appalachian State University in North Carolina — where they recorded their first two albums — Rainbow Kitten Surprise (RKS) has gained enough acclaim that their current United States tour boasts more sold-out shows than not. Their latest release demonstrates just why they are, according to their own lyrics, “destined to sell out.”

While their first album, “Seven + Mary,” was largely soft and acoustic, the second, “RKS,” had a sound more reminiscent of alternative rock. In their third album, Rainbow Kitten Surprise blends sounds introduced in the previous two albums, but the time since their last release in 2015 has given them time to mature and add more diverse elements to their repertoire.

From the very first line of its opening track, “How To: Friend, Love, Freefall” implores listeners to hang on to every single word. “Hold my hand darling,” the album begins, ready for listeners to embark upon a journey through songs that display the complexities of the human condition.

Frontman Sam Melo exhibits his ability to seamlessly move between quasi-rapping as he compares the difficulty of gaining credibility as musicians to a “mission to Mars [that] is destined to fail,” while also describing a changing world, “it’s available only today/ Americana’s crusade for the common man’s promised land.” His impressive vocal range supplements this, making each track unique.

The peppy track “Matchbox” is a realistic but not quite encouraging presentation of the band’s journey to this point in their careers. However, like so many of this album’s tracks, it goes beyond mere description. The song explores the life of a musician through a touching vignette — “I’m in the back of a fifteen-passenger van doing an expose on feelings I don’t fully understand.” Through its narrative story-telling, the song demonstrates a refreshing honesty about confusing emotions and the difficulty of expressing them.

“Hide,” which was released as a single earlier in the year, explores love and begs to not have to keep it hidden. As Melo croons, “He’s a better kisser than you’d think, Mom,” RKS begins plucking heartstrings and continues to do so throughout the whole track. Also worth a mention is the track’s music video, which is presented like a mini-documentary of individuals coming out as drag queens to their families. The music pauses throughout the video as the stories unfold.

One of the most impressive tracks is “Painkillers,” which begins “Very lovely morning / Try not to kill yourself today.” Such an introduction makes it nearly impossible to tear attention away from the mournfully poetic lyrics about substance abuse and an imperfect life. Its folksy instrumentals and Melo’s pensive vocals create a truly mesmerizing experience of contemplation. It begs for hope for those battling addiction while paying respect to the reasons it might occur with lines like “Winning’s for the lucky, living just takes painkillers.”

With tracks that contain both upbeat drums and slower, contemplative refrains, any hipster who can’t bring themselves to commit to a genre will have something to put some bounce in their step as they listen through a set of tangled earbuds. The time it takes to untangle the earbuds simply isn’t worth waiting to hear what this collection of distinct but thoughtfully ordered tracks will bring next.


Artist: Rainbow Kitten Surprise
Album: “How to: Friend, Love, Freefall”
Label: Elektra Records
Favorite Tracks: “Hide,” “Painkillers”
If you like: Matt Corby, The Lumineers
Shamrocks: 4.5/5

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