Album Review: RACES, Year of the Witch


Los Angeles band RACES is hitting the scene with their first full-length album, Year of the Witch. Formed in 2009, RACES have distinguished themselves through their alternative, orchestral, rolling melodies and awesomely spastic moments of fuzzed-up, garage instrumentals.

This LP is the follow up to their Big Broom EP and limited edition 7” featuring songs “Living Cruel and Rude” and “Big Broom.”  I first caught on to this band when I saw them give an absolutely killer performance at School Nights at Bardot.  Following in the same many-membered-vein as groups such as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, this six piece band was cohesive, creative, and sound damn good.  Their music was folky but dark, ethereal but dissectible, and sad but melodic and fun. It was a winning combination, and I was hooked.  Unfortunately, I only had three songs—“All for You,” “Hope and Gloom,” and “Big Broom”—to rotate on repeat.  Now, with the full-length I have 11 gorgeous tracks to lull me into reverie.

The album kicks off with “All for You,” setting the stage for the entire album’s relaxed, swingy tempos. The second track, “Don’t Be Cruel,” introduces the sadness that colors the entire album, and by the following song, “In My Name,” minor chords and harsher, fuzzy sounds, bring that sadness into a delicious anger. “The Knife” starts off innocently enough with lines such as “when you stood on the stage/wearing that little white dress/a thousand silver horses raced through my chest”, then slowly grows into one of the aforementioned spastic moments with a ridiculous, loud, and straight grungy interlude.


The album peaks with “Big Broom.”  The song’s great use of balance: heavy bass line’s balance high, dreamy backup vocals; steady rhythms are interrupted by brief, tension-building pauses.  Even the form and the content address each other—the song’s sweeping sound mirrors the lyrical story of being swept clean. Let’s just say this song is definitely one of my top picks of 2012 so far. From there, the album winds down with “Lies,” an easy tune with another great moment of sonic spasm, the more hopeful, multi-paced “Song of Birds,” and closing track “Year of the Child,” which shortly and simply rounds out the album.

Year of the Witch keeps to its themes of sadness, loss, but evolves with its hope for rebuilding.  Perhaps my only complaint is that the songs don’t seem to evolve in the same way: while the details certainly distinguish the tracks, RACES’ formula of sweeping, grand-gestured songs can get repetitive at times.

Overall, the album is lovely in the saddest kind of way, like the end of (500) Days of Summer or Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism. If you’re going through a break up right now, listen to Year of the Witch. That said, if you like good music, listen to this album.

Also, catch RACES on tour for the album–check tour dates here.  Their next show will be the album release show this Friday at the Echo in LA.