Taylor Hawkins’ newest EP, KOTA, is, without question, an impressive work of art. The sound of his band is influenced by many different styles of music. For instance, the guitars embody Southern rock, while other instruments feature sections that are reminiscent of more current genres–i.e. funky drum grooves and deep electronic bass lines. Hawkins, former drummer for the Foo Fighters, is finally able to break out of his mold and create his own solo project. It is distinctive and new, leaving his audience in anticipation for future, full-length albums.
The album opener, “Range Rover Bitch,” certainly makes a strong statement. It begins with a cavernous, sub-bass sound, a growl that fills out the low ends of the soundscape. A catchy, ostinato guitar riff soon enters the fold, priming the audience for an exciting sonic journey. It then proceeds into a much groovier playing style, rife with blazing electric guitar fills. Despite the technicality of the instruments, however, Hawkins’ lyrics are afforded the space necessary to breathe. He sings, “said she would take you to heaven, but she took you to hell.” In striking fashion, the band are able to subtly, yet masterfully, blend many iterations of music, including classic rock, indie, funk and even head bangin’ rock ’n’ roll.
The next song on the album, “Bob Quit His Job,” is more reminiscent of an ’80s hair metal track. With its face-melting guitar leads and straight rocking grooves, “Bob” evokes memories of The Scorpions or Def Leppard. Hawkins’ repetition of the eponymous lyric during the chorus firmly imprints the vocal melody in the listener’s head: “Bob quit his job, Bob quit his job, did you know?” Throughout the song, the verses simply run and groove in straightforward, 4/4 rock ’n’ roll. In true Hawkins fashion, shrieking guitars return to form an exciting riff. The bridge gently eases into a minor key, adding a certain degree of tension and reprieve before bringing us back to the wonderfully upbeat chorus. “Bob” is perhaps KOTA’s catchiest offering, although the meaning of the lyrics is left somewhat ambiguous. The song culminates in vocal harmonies accompanied by a subtle percussive section, soon followed by a ripping guitar solo.
“Southern Belles” propels KOTA towards much funkier territory. Its upbeat, syncopated guitar intro is somewhat reminiscent of a blues-influenced band, such as the Black Keys. The bridge then modulates to a different key signature, briefly putting the listener off-balance. The lyrics in this song are particularly reflective of Hawkins’ inner life. He sings, “someplace I can hide, with you still alive,” while also commenting, “Southern Bells they keep on ringin’, Southern Bells we sing along.” “Bells” is finally capped off by a thick, boosted guitar solo.
The next track, “Rudy,” marks a brief departure from the upbeat rock grooves of its predecessors. It kicks off with a piano introduction. The melodic figures encompasses subtle dissonances, yet still manage to capture a strikingly beautiful tone. Finally a delay-affected guitar comes in, establishing a suspenseful tone, as its tonality is left somewhat unclear. The instruments return to KOTA’s signature groove: they just flat out rock. Hawkins sings introspectively, “I used to think years made friends, but they don’t / time keeps knocking at the door.” This rather melancholic lyric frames the chorus, which evokes an ’80s space-rock sound. Embracing the rebellious punk-rocker inside him, Hawkins sings, “with friends like you, I don’t need friends at all.” A beautiful, highly melodic synth solo is then featured, introducing a new sense of sonority. The more upbeat sections of “Rudy” are sandwiched between delicate piano segments. Toward the piano, subtle percussion joins in while guitars gently noodle about in the background, capping off a truly beautiful song that allows the band to express themselves in a more emotional way.
The fifth track, “Tokyo No No” is overt in its blues influences. It features blues-driven rhythms with odd phrasal changes. Hawkins’ singing hearkens back to Lemmy or Axl Rose’s strenuous vocal delivery. A left-panned, chugging guitar syncopates tightly with the percussive section, locking in the groove of the song. During the bridge, we are treated an organ-dominated breakdown. The song ultimately becomes a sparsely bodied track that culminates in an exciting climax. Hawkins declares, “I don’t need new friends,” before the tempo suddenly decreases and the band members enter a frenetic outro solo that energetically punctuates the vibe of this song.
Finally, Taylor Hawkins chooses to end his EP with “I’ve Got Some Not Being Around You to Do Today.” The song begins with an airy, grating, electronic noise that defines its sonic landscape. The guitar eventually comes in with a rocking blues riff that works to rouse the listener. However, the bass line is what demands the most attention on this track, allowing us to cling onto lower registers while the chorus of the song restates the title. “I’ve Got Some” is also defined by its rhythmic complexity, adding a level of dynamic intrigue. The track ends with a natural climax, wrapping up the entire album on a strong note and leaving the listener to fervently anticipate what may come next from Taylor Hawkins.