Trend chasing? Who cares as long as it’s good?
It’s easy to dismiss Rainbow Girls as opportunistic. But this is a necessary quality in acts on the come-up, and it doesn’t have to be negative if the music still shines.
The band has shifted their style drastically from lively, bouncy country to acoustic folk when it got them a bigger audience, and they even put out a covers record cynically titled Give The People What They Want after a clip of them performing “Down Home Girl” went viral. Rolling Dumpster Fire, their latest seven-song EP and the first batch of new material in four years, doesn’t assuage this impression, instead going further into the pillowy, atmospheric dream-country sound that’s currently in vogue. However, any impression of selling out will instantly dissipate in the face of its stellar harmonies and serene textures.
While Rainbow Girls’ last record, American Dream, could also be classified as folk, it possessed some twang in the vocals and guitar tones. The bouncy tempos and lively mood of The Sound of Light were long gone, but there was a country edge to even the most dream-like songs. Similarly, Give The People What They Want leaned heavily on bluesy sounds and heavier strumming. In contrast, there’s no harmonica or trace of any blues or country on Rolling Dumpster Fire. Instead, it sounds like it could have come from any indie-folk artist of the past couple of years.
Regardless of how dissimilar it is to the band’s previous records or whether it’s authentically them, it nails a gauzy, dream-like atmosphere. The haunting violins of “Roads Must Roll,” the foreboding double bass of “Santa Anna” and the twinkling organ of “Doesn’t Make Any Sense” are all great examples of how the group uses their instruments to forge this intoxicating sound. The harmonies, a perennial highlight of any Rainbow Girls album, are as spectacular as ever, with soft and inviting backing vocals that envelop the ears. The production delivers both the intimacy of folk and the size of good chamber pop. Sure, there’s almost no twang or edge left, but it never feels too synthetic or washed-out thanks to the emotion to the acoustic guitars on “Doesn’t Make Any Sense” and the vocals on the final crescendo of “Roads Must Roll,” among other details.
The only song on the album that doesn’t work is “Free Wine,” where a promising start of slightly thicker acoustics quickly gives way to audio sludge. The vocals are buried in the mix beneath even the drums, and the song dissolves into a directionless cacophony halfway through without any adequate build-up because the singing never matches its energy. If Rainbow Girls continue with this sound (which they should, even if they get accused of selling out or whatever), hopefully, they don’t lose sight of good compositions and mixing and make more confusing messes like this.
EPs are meant to be training grounds, and hopefully, Rainbow Girls will continue with the ground lain here. Though they venture into an overcrowded arena, the gorgeous harmonies and lush yet intimate atmosphere should be enough to separate them from the pack.