Riley and the Roxies
The Lovers in Spain EP
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The duo of singer/songwriter Spencer Riley and producer Wes.--yes, with a period--who make up Riley and the Roxies are their own kind of border crossers, with roots and connections on either side of the LA/OC divide; the two met at a show at Chain Reaction, Riley goes to school at Biola in La Mirada, throw in La Habra and Whittier and Cerritos into it and at some point you have to wonder if a third county might emerge one day.
On their debut release, the duo kick things off on a note that both works and stumbles a bit--on the one hand "Shawna!" wears its allegiance to everything from bratty garage rock to New Wave tight grooves to 21st century brash radio pop well, but on the other hand the opening snippet makes the titular subject of star-crossed affection sound like someone not worth spending time with. But then again, such are the pains of love, and Riley and Wes. plus some regular backing singers have a blast of a time.
The remaining four songs are also engaging in a similar vein; Riley's singing voice is forthright and in the moment, often feeling like a kissing cousin of David Garza's joyous riff on Marc Bolan's singing, not a bad place to be. If there's a sculpted, almost airless feeling sometimes in the arrangements by Wes., there's also subtle room to breathe here and there, in the way extra percussion bubbles below the basic rock beats or the layers of call and response vocals that recur throughout. If it's not the simultaneous explosion of energy and slickly stylish control of Fitz and the Tantrums quite yet, it's pretty easy to imagine these folks somewhere on a bill with them.
In the end it's clear that The Lovers in Spain is exactly what it is, a young band's first effort, an early statement of purpose with some flair. But starting somewhere is always going to happen and when Riley tackles the chorus to the title song with gusto and just a little show business to boot, it's hard not to get caught up in the moment.