The Indie-Pop Rockers of EXNATIONS Drown Us In Synth on Debut EP
A few months ago, we gushed over EXNATIONS’ electro-pop rhythms and their long-distance love affair. When they’re not coming together to come alive on stage under bright lights swirling with high-powered energy, the members of EXNATIONS are divided by hundreds of miles. Strangely, the distance has been good for them, allowing them to hone their crafts individually then compile their skills through file-sharing and bedroom recording sessions.
The band’s vibrant pop-rock anthems deserve the spotlight on their own, but the fact that they’ve been created in such unconventional production ways and still manage to sound like the badass impeccably-produced gems they do deserves a quick nod. Last month, EXNATIONS dropped their debut EP, Tiny Sound In The Dark, five quick synth-laden tracks that boast searing electric arrangements and countless moments of sparkle and frenzy.
Tiny Sound In The Dark opens with “Never About The Money,” a dynamic and in-your-face single buzzing with the wail of synths and relentless percussion. The vocals move in slowly, a distinct gurgle falling off the tongue before gaining power and soaring above the growing arrangement of vivid pop-rock rhythms. The track moves forward like this, in and out of different tiers of energy. Of course, there’s not really a “lowest tier” here, because even the quietest moments are still jam-packed with rapid-fire beats. There’s an unwavering intensity to the EP’s opener, constant slaps of impassioned multi-instrumental prowess, the perfect introduction to what EXNATIONS can offer (and what they will).
Following that unforgiving start to the EP is “Can’t Get Hurt,” yet another uptempo pop romp. Here we get more of that dreamy synth foundation paired with punchy percussion and poignant lyricism (“Flightless birds can’t get hurt buried in the sand”) hidden within innumerable layers of heavy drum slaps and dazzling synth sparkles. The EP’s halfway point finds “Wore All Black,” an uncharacteristically forlorn (well, okay, the band touches on some pretty heavy themes, but they’re usually masked by bubblegum arrangements) sounding piece. It’s a stunner of a love song, still coated in buzzing synth and hammered in with thick layers of percussion, but there’s a stirring bass warble here that we’ve been missing a bit. The vocals — at their most sincere — relay the feelings we all know so well when we’re falling in love. The bittersweet arrangement acts as a comedown at the halfway point, offering us a reflective ballad before we get back to EXNATIONS’ addictive indie rock anthems.
But then “Celebration / Sign” follows suit, another slow burn so gorgeous in its careful treatment of synth blooms and deep rumbles of percussion. It builds slowly, resigned vocals singing above quick shimmers and emotive rhythms before suddenly the piece erupts — with that classic EXNATIONS tone — into a splash of fuzzy electric instrumentation colored by bubbly blooms of pop elements. Tiny Sound In The Dark ends with “Blank White,” an expert conclusion that pulls the band’s basics back into the foreground. We get some simple keys, quick clipped drums, and a whole lot of trembling bass. They play with urgency and emotion here, teasing us with blooms of pop-rock goodness and quieter comedowns that crawl and swell to explosions of vibrant multi-instrumental riffs that steal the show while the vocals howl in the distance. It’s the perfect end to the EP because you can practically hear the track exiting its place on stage, slipping back behind the curtains, leaving us to contemplate the silence.
On Tiny Sound In The Dark, the (wildly talented) members of EXNATIONS craft utterly decadent 80s-tinged arrangements given the neon treatment. Drawn to the twinkle and vibrato of synth and the smashing slap of percussion, EXNATIONS build soundscapes swollen with high-powered anthemic angst, each designed for maximum dance capabilities. If we can’t rid ourselves of the inevitable loneliness and love loss that plagues us, maybe we can at least set it aside for a couple spins on the dance floor with EXNATIONS as our soundtrack. Yeah. That’ll do.
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Featured photo by Adele Sakey