Some album titles just have a way of clicking. They can perfectly describe what you’re going to find underneath the artwork and packaging. One look can be all it takes to see whether the record is angry, sad, political, poppy, or any of the other many variations of possible themes. In the case of Peter Joseph & The Roaring Twenties‘s debut EP, Colorful, they couldn’t have picked a better name.
You can categorize Colorful as indie folk rock, but that genre would be far too limiting. Instead, the band creates a series of melodies and powerful moments throughout the five songs that appear. Peter Joseph’s impressive vocal range can hit every height or depth needed, while Rich Pena’s intricate guitar work pushes each song to greater heights, and Noelle Casella’s cello smoothly entangles itself into the fray. Each track introduces new stories and new moods, creating varied arrangements with every step.
The EP starts off with a reverberating guitar loop on “Living On A Farm”. The jangling guitar riff that comes in matches up perfectly with lyrics, conjuring images of life in the countryside. Joseph’s voice gently moves like sea waves, up and down the musical alphabet in the quick-moving verses. The chorus builds up to a beautiful falsetto with equally strong backing vocals from Pena, making this the first of many amazing harmonies on the record. As the song goes on, the instrumentation slowly increases in intensity without getting aggressive or overtly loud. Instead, all the ratcheting happens through the emotions presented.
“Light” is more mournful than the opener, with all the focus placed on acoustic guitar and saddened vocals. “You said the last time that I held you tight was the last time that I really breathed,” sings Joseph, looking back on lost love. Beautiful, rich harmonies flow throughout the number, especially in the layered chorus. Casella’s prominent cello adds just the right touch of melancholy to the song as a whole.
If “Light” was very low-key and “Living On a Farm” was upbeat, than “Burning Time, Wasting Wine” lands perfectly in between the two, both in terms of instrumentation and tempo. A single chord reminiscent of an acoustic “A Hard Day’s Night” welcomes the song, while the chorus shows early Beatles influence as well. Gloriously ascending vocal melodies shared by Joseph and Pena are one of the main reasons this track works so well. The verses are almost spoke-sung, adding a conversational feel to lyrics that are speaking to, instead of about, someone.
The title track is easily the best of the bunch, moving the farthest away from Americana, instead finding its way into a tender, ballad-esque feel. Pena’s electric guitar is simple, yet sublime, creating an almost jazzy riff that gives Joseph the push he needs for a strongly soulful performance, full of breathy falsetto and throaty growls. The acoustic guitar and cello are lovely background touches that add to an already exceptional arrangement. Ending with wordless yelps that would be perfect for singalongs, “Colorful” is the type of music you can close your eyes and lose yourself in.
“For You” closes out the record gently, having the cello soothingly move over the acoustic guitars. All the focus here is centered on Joseph and Pena’s dual vocals. While the verses stick to his lower range, Joseph moves into a stunningly fragile falsetto in the chorus. Lyrically, it sticks with the theme of love, fitting well within the vocal performance. Lines like “And with no comfort near and no end in sight, he pines for you, the only thing he ever knew” are much more powerful when combined with the heartache felt in every note.
From the beginning to the end, Colorful is an exceptional start for Peter Joseph & The Roaring Twenties. The tunes are all very catchy, taking advantage of Joseph’s crooning vocals, Pena’s strongly diverse guitar, and Casella’s expressive cello. Hopefully a full-length album is in the works, so that we can all see how many more colors and melodies this band can come up with.