Album Review: Rifle Men – Treewolf Is Dead EP

I normally never have a problem with labels. Despite a lot of varying factors, most things can be argued simply into one box, no matter the flourishes or copious amounts of influences shackled together. That was, however, until I came across Rifle Men. Described by their label Cantora Records as “lush bedroom pop”, the music of former Hostra University housemates Daniel Gdula and Anthony Gerbino is anything but the simple, DIY lo-fi of most bedroom productions. Instead, their creations pour out the speakers as an amalgamation of sounds forged with the higher truth of insightful lyricism and luxurious production. It must have been one hell of a bedroom is all I’m saying.

There’s this idea that bedroom-based productions can’t be complicated, that each cut made from your mom’s attic in Cleveland, OH has to be some sparse and haphazardly created wave of noise and junk sounds. True, some acts have made sweet, almost somber melodies from their little tape decks, but nothing is as powerful and diverse as the six offerings on this EP.

Opening track “His and Hers” is the very definition of the duo’s sound. Gentle, poppy guitars became a forest of jangly rhythm that carries within it some of the more varied vocal work you’ll find in the genre, with Gdula and Gerbino splitting duties to create a sound that is grating and in-your-face and yet so full of bright and shiny appeal it’s hard not to get caught up in the saccharine drive of the track. The band are also masters at crafting truly layered songs. “Lights and Mirror” is an intimate number, with a slight ambiance to it that the two musicians drafted by layering synth noises and subtle drumming and low-key guitar work to build a soundscape with the same bedroom ethos that still brilliantly displays their skills as production whizzes.

While they’re clearly talented musicians and not ones to shy away from more complicated song structures (especially ones that are actually exhilarating and not rubbish because they shot at being too complicated), the group are more than that. In a way to get back to a “simpler” kind of song, “Caroline” is a much less involved number, focused only on the slightest of touches musically and pushed forward by a simple synth line. It’s that simplicity, though, that makes the Killers-esque, faux ‘80s vocals pop. And the lyrical content (my favorite line being “I have no lover, but I’ve got a bed to defend”) gives us a picture of a band with a lot to say in a truly entertaining fashion. “Berlin” also shows a side of that band that features alternate female vocals with a slight world music-tinge that makes the whole ordeal feel like a dramatic construct that shows a level of showmanship akin to more ‘80s pop music.

It’s still safe to call these guys bedroom pop; there’s an intimacy to this EP that fits the genre and it’s definitely one made with the tastes and sensibilities of two dudes. However, it’s sonically above and beyond a lot of its competitors thanks to its open embrace of the familiar sounds from the 1980s along with an affinity for experimentation and a firm grasp of advanced production skills.


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