(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #337: Dry the River

By on Tuesday, 3rd February 2015 at 12:00 pm

London alt-rock quartet Dry the River released their latest album of new material ‘Alarms in the Heart’ on the 25th of August last year via Transgressive Records. Recorded in Iceland, the album is Dry the River’s second full-length LP, following their 2012 debut ‘Shallow Bed’, which was released in both a full studio format and the acoustic version reviewed by our own Martin. Last summer, we here at TGTF featured a complete stream of ‘Alarms in the Heart’ as well as the video documentary of its recording process.

Dry the River combines the heavy guitars and drums of typical alt-rock with a folk-oriented focus on lyricism, vocal harmonisation and expanded instrumentation. Lead singer Peter Liddle alternates seamlessly between a fluttering falsetto and a grittier full-voiced timbre, his voice matching equally well with the lighter acoustic moments and the broadly expansive instrumental crescendos. Band members Liddle (guitar, lead vocals), Matthew Taylor (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Scott Miller (bass, percussion, vocals) and Jon Warren (drums, percussion) were until recently joined by violinist Will Harvey, who left the band just after ‘Alarms in the Heart’ was completed. Harvey’s absence surely poses an interesting challenge for the band, as his bowed string underpinnings were key to the folk quality of their sound, particularly on older songs like ‘Bible Belt’.

The newer material on ‘Alarms in the Heart’ does lean more heavily toward rock than folk, with stronger emphasis on pounding drums and power chords, but the emotional, often Romantic quality of the lyrics is still present, along with the vocal harmonies and the exquisite dynamic variation in the instrumental arrangements. Early singles ‘Gethsemane’ and ‘Everlasting Light’ were released last summer ahead of the album proper. Both are centered around darkly brooding lyrics, but where ‘Gethsemane’ is slow and melancholic (“it started with the moon that turned an inexpensive room into St. Peter’s / there’s a parabolic story but it’s boring and it ends how you’d expect”), the sharply concise ‘Everlasting Light’ feels a bit more like a true radio single with its wailing guitar riff and repeated chorus, “I had my reasons at the time / I had my reasons at the time / something in the state of mind / oh, everlasting light”.

The album’s current single ‘Rollerskate’ starts off with a slightly brighter sound, but its chorus quickly descends into a dark angst, culminating in the spine-tingling coda of Liddle’s repeated “I couldn’t want you more than this”. The song’s accompanying video feels singularly appropriate for Dry the River’s upcoming tour plans, as it features up close looks at the band members backstage, onstage and mingling post-show with their fans.

Dry the River will embark on a set of English tour dates in mid-February before heading across the pond for a few warm up shows ahead of their scheduled appearance at SXSW 2015 in March. A full listing of upcoming tour dates can be found on the band’s official Web site.

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