Featuring musicians who’ve also had connections with Ellen & The Degenerates, Choke Up and Answering Machine (not to be confused with Manchester’s The Answering Machine), Sadlands are an indie punk/power pop outfit from the US, whose stock sounds often lean towards the feel-good. This four track debut is big on riffs, but even bigger on alternative melodic hooks that often allow great vocals to shine.
‘McClellan’ sets the tone very clearly by powering forward with a set of overdriven chords that sound like a blend of Blake Babies and a timeless power pop band. The tones nod to melodic pop punk in the way they ring out with a real intent, but Sadlands are more concerned with giving everything a fine pop-ish send off. The guitar sounds are great, but the bigger melodies come through a tightly wound harmony vocal that sounds like a collision between ‘Talk Show’ era Go-Go’s and Voice of The Beehive. With the lead voice driving the verse with a clear tone that’s unafraid to share a very “90s via the 60s” sound, once joined by wordless harmonies, it’s really obvious that a lot of time has gone into making the vocals more interesting than your average indie pop band, whilst a twangy lead guitar occasionally pokes through everything with a pointed 60s tone. It;s as catchy as hell. By comparison, the jangling indie of ‘With Friends Like These’ is a little more ordinary at first, but quickly builds into a very buoyant indie rock number with a melodic punk undercurrent where a natural vocal and loud guitar might remind some listeners of a tighter version of bands like Cub. As before, the lead vocals are hugely appealing, but this time, it’s the music that wins out with a rhythmic nod to Phil Spector flowing into a huge knockabout riff that allows the drums to dominate, before a spiky lead guitar adds a great solo. Overall, the juxtaposition of sunny musical vibes and slightly sneery lyric advertises Sadlands’ approach very well. Even if the end result isn’t quite as catchy, a few plays will uncover a tune that’s better than first impressions suggested.
‘After Tonight Things Will Be Different’ shifts the mood and tempo to full on pop punk, and the speed driven riffs play out like a marriage between Discount and Buzzcocks playing back at full pelt. This timeless punk approach is perfect for a quickly delivered, almost brattish vocal and an off kilter lead break, but in true Sadlands style, there’s still room for a few harmonies. The way the dual voices flesh out the chorus or return to the wordless countermelodies of the opener really helps to lift a fairly predictable arrangement, and when played back at high volume, it’s a track that sounds even stronger. The whole EP is good to great, but ‘Flowers’ is a cut above. The band obviously knows this too, since it was chosen as a digital single release ahead of the EP. In so many ways, it’s the perfect plug for the band’s wholly enjoyable sound since it flaunts a huge chiming guitar and a crashy rhythmic feel that sounds like an old Letters To Cleo track in bigger boots. That’ll be enough alone to win over a lot of ears, but the big draw here comes via the huge dual vocals of Jess Lane and Samantha Campanile. Their voices immediately introduce something bigger than this sort of track would normally need, and somewhere around the end of the first verse, their vocals really start to sell a great melody. If you’ve not been won over by the mid point, the band ups the musical stakes by wheeling out the catchiest set of whoahs to grace a guitar driven banger in some time. It’s brilliant. If you’ve enjoyed any of the other tracks, you’ll love this.
Come for ‘Flowers’, then stay for the rest. This is a short release that has the potential for massive, long term enjoyment. Sadlands might not always sound a hundred percent original – and let’s face it, very few bands do – but they play with conviction, and their grasp of a great pop-rock hook is very obvious throughout. For lovers of jangly indie and finely crafted power pop everywhere, Sadlands (both the band and the EP) should provide a small bundle of musical loveliness. Grab a download at the earliest opportunity – you won’t regret it.