Forgive Yourself, You’re a Human Being
Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam has a heavy influence over his alt-rock trio project, RNDM, though the heavy rock and roll has been replaced with an experimental electronic underlay and softer compilation and orchestral touches. There is even a strong shift from RNDM’s debut 2012 disc Acts. This time around, there is a gorgeous balance between happiness and sadness, mostly the former in the sonic composition and the latter in the lyrics.
Ament’s influence is easily noticed in first track “Stumbling Down” of new album Ghost Riding. Vocalist/guitarist Joseph Arthur may have a less distinctive tone, but the sentiment is still very much in the same vein as Eddie Vedder. The overall sound of this piece is astonishingly similar to Pearl Jam. “I know, you know, we’re still young” stands out as a line from third/title track “Ghost Riding,” which incorporates a more symphonic build and breaks away from the Pearl Jam vibes. The sound is fresh and light, while the lyrics provide a balance of the whimsy of youth and dark honesty of adulthood that comes with life experience. “So don’t take me far from home. I’m still afraid.”
“Got to Survive” is decidedly poppy, with higher vocals floating happily with lyrics, “We’re going to die.” The juxtaposition is lovely, and there are several harmonizing touches, as well as electronic background noises that accentuate the chorus. “Stray” has a groovy beat right off the bat, thanks to drummer Richard Stuverud and some airy layers that float up easily, led by a driving momentum that feels effortless.
“Stronger” starts off with an automated voicemail. “17 messages.” This leads immediately into something hauntingly dark, with strings and piano beautifully constructing the storyline. The drop into the meat of the song is backed with some powerful vocals, before sinking back into the despairing monologue. The sonic touches are impeccable, with uncomfortable instrumentation driving the ballad. A scene forms as lyrics are slowly revealed, and the music fully creates the story like an important piece of the soundtrack in a motion picture.
“Trouble” opens with unique clacking noises that sound before the orchestral build softly begins. The build is strange but intoxicating, and as vocals begin, the listener is hooked. The chorus hits and is simply the hookiest thing on the whole disc. “So long. I’m gone,” is repeated over a happy pop beat, echoed by “Hold on, hold on.” Again, the juxtaposition is incredibly profound.
The vocals in “NYC Freeks” return to Pearl Jam vibes, while a dance beat grooves underneath, taking it far away from the electric guitar realm and into something funky fresh. “Kingdom in the Sky” then starts in simplicity, with a soft, catchy beat and slowly builds layers that explode into a textured chorus full of soaring sopranos. “Forgive yourself, you’re a human being” is the line that sticks out. Whoa.
“It’s Violence” is dreamily dark, while “Dream Your Life Away” is violently soft. The sonic underlay drifts, while the guitar and electronic layers of the chorus create an emotional stimulant to the solemn lyrics. The final line is a foreshadowing: “I’m gonna wait to let you in.” RNDM has given us a taste, but the best is yet to come.