2012 continues to be a great year for music, including stirring debut albums from Alabama Shakes, Of Monsters and Men, and the Lumineers. But my favorite is the debut from Seattle trio River Giant, comprised of Liam O’Connor, Kyle Jacobson, and Trent Schriener. The self-titled album follows their EP, Vernon’s Cast, from 2010. Music writers and DJs note the band’s folk sound, including their honeyed harmonies, often comparing them to Seattle’s Fleet Foxes. But River Giant weaves the folk into hard-driven rock, often bolstered by distortion that recalls Pearl Jam and the nineties alternative sound. And, like those bands, River Giant, draws influence from the classic rock of the seventies. Evocative of Neil Young’s rich nasal whine, the three members’ voices soar over and then sink into the songs that span the ten-song debut.
River Giant covers a wide range of sonic territory. Some songs pound the body while others lilt into the ears. My current favorites represent both ends of the spectrum. The first song, “Out Here, Outside,” opens the album, “Leave this damn kitchen / Come on outside,” in a sweet plea to ditch the domestic for a dance in the fine night air. You can almost hear the couple’s dusty shuffle in the lazy waltz, which provides the foundation for soaring harmonies. But the song that really grabs me is “Fast Heart,” opening with an angry, interruptive guitar riff that breaks into accordion arpeggio, weaving a mystical sound that captures the obvious influence of the natural world on their work. Watch River Giant play “Fast Heart” in a recent appearance on KEXP. Alternating these opposing sounds, the song recalls music by Bush, Pink Floyd, and Crazy Horse, creating a strange alchemy that defines River Giant’s sound. Weaving through every song is the three-part harmony, which comprises the softer songs and fills the intentional gaps of the hard-edged ones, to seam together the ten tracks into an album about love, loss, and the boring bits of life in between.
Listen to the full album on River Giant’s Bandcamp page, where you can also download it for a steal.