Hearing Aide: Four Star Riot “Waves”

four-star-riot-wavesJust the first 30 seconds of this album is so refreshing to hear. It’s easy listening, rocking and grabbing songs that don’t get released these days and definitely don’t get enough publicity. Four Star Riot is the epitome of a garage rock band with a little bit of cultivation from other genre’s to make it pop in more ways than one. They consider themselves as power pop and soul rock and say their influences come from stars like Parachute and Maroon 5 and it shows, but they still have their own flavor. Their hooks are catchy, the tone is straightforward and the album is filled with a wide variety of tones, tempos and styles. And although their tracks aren’t ones that will have the listener sitting alone is their room, contemplating the meaning of the lyrics and color of the songs, one may find their music perfect for relaxing drive or a chill hangout night with friends.

The album does sound similar to their past albums, with only devoted listeners noticing the changes like the lack of keyboards and organs (which did add a nice flare and color to their rock pop sound)  but they still power on without any sense of empty space. Tracks like “Waves” are among the heaviest of the album, with some fairly crunchy, distorted guitar and popping drum tracks. But the heaviness of a song is largely determined by the vocal timbre and vocalist and rhythm guitarist Steve Alex, who’s voice can comfortably reach some pretty impressive octaves, creates a lighter hearted take on a standard rock band sound. It’s his sultry, flowing voice that defines them as a pop rock band. A more aggressive and growling voice would easily turn this into a pop-punk band but Alex’s voice fits the bill perfectly and puts them up there with groups like Parachute and Maroon 5.

“Empty Spaces” is another track to pay attention to. It has a funkier groove to it , with a steady beat and loads of tricky high-hat rudiments from drummer Mike Chilton as well as plenty of voice from bassist Aaron Akers. Guitarists Alex and Finn Walling also use a variety of tones, from tight, high octave blips of funky guitar to phaser-filled chorus’ to move the styles around throughout the song. It makes for a multidirectional song that would definitely get bodies moving during a live performance.

Listeners should also delve into “Just Tell Me” to appreciate the versatility of the band. The style in this track could be compared to groups like The Fratellis or maybe even Arctic Monkeys in terms of a more punk-ish sound. The pace is picked up for the first time in the album, and although the guitar might be a bit clean and spacey at first, it quickly changes to a hard, dirty twanging strum that absolutely rocks. The chorus hook is catchy and the songs moves around in different directions, making it a little less predictable than most pop rock songs.

Other tracks like “Don’t Go”, “Torn & Tattered” and “So Far” lay a little bit lower in terms of energy and instrumental complexity. They’re definitely enjoyable to listen to, but they’re also the most straightforward tracks on the album. Listeners might gravitate towards tracks with more flare like the ones mentioned earlier, and other like “No Shore” which although is fairly predictable, still has a unique reggae taste to it that spices things up just a bit to draw the listener in.

“Baby Blue” is another surprisingly funky track from the four stars that keeps a consistent tone throughout the track, but makes little variations on each verse and chorus that keeps things interesting. It’s on the shorter side at 3:00 but it has on of the catchiest vocal hooks in the album that will keep the listener humming it day and night.

As said before, this was a surprisingly refreshing album. There were different styles, all executed and produced perfectly and is definitely worth delving into. There is a least one track that everyone can vibe with in this album and it’s available now on Spotify and iTunes for download.

Key Tracks: Empty Spaces, Jest Tell Me, Baby Blue