Anyone accustomed to the sort of indie pop Wartime Recitals put out could be forgiven for confusing them with another band. The opening track, Bad Dances, opens with a hip, cute piano ditty and Jonathan Krueger’s voice sort of murmur-singing over its jangling chords. Accompanying him is Morgan Paros, a soft, similarly cool voice tracing steps over his every line.
The drums are light, the guitars a little fuzzy and faded. And then the glockenspiels come in. If they’d arrived a few years earlier, Wartime Recitals could have challenged Los Campesinos! for the crown to be the Melancholy Kings (and Queens) of Cool.
The Los Angeles five-piece (plus others on brass, strings and percussion when required) do not play the most novel of music. Guitars, pianos, soft violins and the now almost-mandatory twinkles of glockenspiel that pepper the arrangements of any melodic indie pop band worth their salt are present and correct. This doesn’t mean the EP isn’t a great listen.
Wartime Recitals is equal parts cool, warm and pensive. It perks up your ears as you try to listen, not just hear. The harmonies and thoughtful guitar on Bears grab your insides and tie them in a glorious knot. Wind Up Luck’s chaotic, catchy piano charters twisted love as bands in this vein do, but the vocal turns from the spare, drawn-out passages in the verses to the choruses that make each syllable count give the song a toe-tapping edge.
Perhaps predictably, the tone is a mellow one, tinged with the croak of heartbreak. Twins deals with family breakdown to the tune of understated guitar and strong, tough drum-work but it’s on closing track Ribbons that the band’s real potential to explore emotional depths is reached. Each instrument has its place, forming a solemn and delicate arrangement which tugs a little at the “ribbons of your heart,” as the song notes. It made my heart break a little with each listen.
Wartime Recitals’ sound is clean, betraying their glossy Los Angeles roots, but their intentions are true and their music has heart. Behind the sadness, much like the aforementioned Los Campesinos, there lies a glimmer of hope that rings out with each strike of a glockenspiel. Should this outfit find themselves crossing the pond in the future, the delicate little flickering flame that wavers in their songs could start a wildfire in many a lost heart.