It’s not really a secret: we’re big into indie music.
Yeah, indie’s a broad term, but at it’s core I think it’s about music that bucks labels and is better for it – whether that means smart, artful lyrics, off-kilter pop melodies that still get stuck in your head, or instrumentation that’s crafted for hand-clapping.
But whether you want to call it indie or just good, that’s the kind of music Grand Rapids’ up-and-comers Pretoria make.
The band broke out with a self-titled EP last year that flitted between atmospheric indie and pounding alt-punk, and they’ve made waves in the Michigan scene since with shows throughout the northern US. This year’s version of the band is further refined, though – they’ve come down squarely on the indie side of the fence, and it’s easy to see why they made the choice.
Lead track “You Can’t Explain It” encapsulates the new approach, with toy synth sounds and surf-rock guitar lines that feel like summer. The lyrics belie the upbeat sound, though:
Walking by your side
There’s something on your mind
And you can’t explain it
Even if you wanted to
Grooving over tapped cymbals and delivered via satisfying resolving melodies, it’s stuff that’s sing-along worthy even if it’s founded in the sober realization of distance between two people who were supposed to close.
Second song “Cody Maverick” encapsulates the band’s energy. Steady eighth-note-driven guitar licks groove with Beach-Boys-like melodies, energized by Ben Dewitt’s apt drum work. “You’ve got something to hold onto,” croons lead singer Rob Gullett in the pre-chorus – and it’s clear the band does.
Third song “Laundry” showcases the band’s range, with tongue-in-cheek lyrics that poke at disappointing relationships.
Cast me out like the dirty laundry you’ve thrown behind your door
I love that line. Because don’t we do that with so many things? Put them out of sight without really solving the problem?
Playing over sounds that traverse the gamut from shimmering sustained chords to head-bobbing breakdowns, the song finally ends in haunting vocal “oohs.”
Album closer “Don’t Forget Me” is proof that the band can make acoustic-guitar driven ballads work, too. The track’s an honest ode to the difficulties of today’s modern, text-message-relationships that rests on the strengths of an earnest vocal performance and evokes shades of Plain White Ts.
With four diverse but cohesive tracks, Cape Town is proof of the power of good indie music. And it’s probably just what we need to get summer started right.