Album Review: The Rifles – Freedom Run

Everyone has the desire to play it safe, at least to some degree. This can be true in day-to-day life, as well as in creative ventures. Unfortunately, the risk-free route doesn’t yield many great musical results. In the case of The Rifles‘ latest album, Freedom Run, problems stem from a lack of variety throughout its 13 tracks. The high-pitched melodies and gentle vocals found on nearly every track aren’t bad. In fact, a few of them are pretty damn catchy. But, unfortunately, fatigue will quickly set in, as hardly anything shifts from their formula.

So, what exactly do these songs sound like? The disc’s opener “Dreamer”, which kicks off with a low church organ before a light guitar pattern shines in, offers a clear guideline. The verses are pounded out, with bursts of six-string buzz from Lucas Crowther and the slamming drums of Kenton Shinn. The lovely harmonies shared by  Crowther and lead vocalist Joel Stoker are on full display here. In an era of studio-created distortion, a natural echo is a definite highlight.

That song sums up a good portion of the album. “Sweetest Thing” and “Falling” are two other riff-rockers, the musicians’ fingers firmly placed near the front of the fretboard. When the band does attempt to venture into new territory, it’s always pulled back to safe melodies and safer vocals. “Love Is Key” sounds promising at the start, with a belligerent opening that brings The Kinks to mind. Unfortunately, the singing doesn’t match up, remaining slight and sweet, with virtually no hints of aggression. “Tangled Up in Love” and “(Interlude)” fare much better. The former includes elegant strings that continue to climb throughout the song, while the latter is an instrumental, with buzzing guitars that dive underwater.

When it comes to this band’s high-pitched melodies and pleasantly catchy vocals, “Dreamer” covers the territory excellently. After that, every other track feels like an inferior version of the opener. It’s when The Rifles blend the traditional with some fresh ideas that you’ll sit up and pay attention, proving that it’s time for The Rifles to change up the formula.

Essential Tracks: “Dreamer”, “Tangled Up in Love”, and “(Interlude)”


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