The state of the world we are living in requires many outside distractions to cope, live, and find a way to be happy in general. On New State of Mind, Night Riots provide plenty of lush musical landscapes to help remind us the beauty of well-crafted pop-rock songs with deeper meanings behind each track. Now that their new record has arrived, Night Riots seem poised for making a significant statement in the music scene with an album that sounds simultaneously professional, dynamic, and captivating all from the first listen.
Never a stranger to the darker tones and mystery surrounding the after-hours nightlife that were presented in their earlier material, New State of Mind is surprisingly bright. Led by the atmospheric album artwork that finds the cover model finding the beauty within herself, there are several songs with massive textural feelings and dual meanings within them. The album was co-produced by Eric Palmquist (Thrice, Bad Suns) and Night Riots, and the production elements showcase a band painting with broad, colorful strokes; never afraid of taking a calculated risk along the way.
Album opener, “Tokyo Diamond Eyes” does an excellent job of re-introducing the band to their fans and newer listeners alike, with a nice build-up to a catchy chorus. Lead singer Travis Hawley is as captivating as he’s ever been as he confidently sings, “Ooh yeah, ooh, watch out below/No holding us back, we’re a rock about to roll/Ooh yeah, ooh, watch out below/Enough is enough yeah, taking it as we go.” It’s as much of a disclaimer as it is a clever opening statement that the band is connected with their listeners on the journey they are about to embark on together.
“Flashy Love” reminded me a bit of the swagger of a 70’s David Bowie-esque track, however, didn’t have as much staying power for me. The song may have benefited from a later album sequencing, but this rare misstep is quickly forgiven with their great single, “On the Line” quickly replacing the memory of the track mentioned above. The electronica elements that made me so enamored in this band in the first place come through in full effect on this song, and find Night Riots in their comfort zone. Hawley describes the beauty of falling in love when he croons, “Dipped in gold, we’re in love/Making out we don’t need reasons/They don’t catch on to what we mean, ooh/Follow the sound, no time to sleep, yeah.” Hawley’s overall happiness drove the content of the record to a brighter and more confident place than Love Gloom, and makes for an enjoyable listen.
“Loyal to the Game” is a synth-laden dreamscape of a track that finds the record finding its footing sooner than most artists would have at just two full-lengths into their career. “In the City,” is a breezy type of summer track that features some brilliant percussion elements from Rico Rodriguez, and producer Eric Palmquist helped the rest of the band pull off a song that they may not have been capable making in the early stages of their formation. It’s a confident mid-album track that further solidifies the vision that the artist was likely going for on this latest effort.
One of my personal favorites on the LP, “Talk About It” allows for Hawley to soar with some of his best higher-registered vocals to date as the track crescendos into the lyrics, “Do you really want to talk about it/Do you really wanna know how I feel about it/After all of these apologies I’m over it/I’m broken, but I feel brand new.” The electronic elements from keyboardist/guitarist Matt DePauw are intricately placed all over the song, but Hawley is the star of this particular track.
“Colour Morning” is another solid choice of a single, with some killer hooks courtesy of guitarist Nick Fotinakes and DePauw provides some more well-timed synths to make for a memorable late album standout. The track has been featured on several TV spots and has helped create even more buzz surrounding New State of Mind.
The latter tracks on the record such as “Not Too Late” feature some more brilliant, higher-registered vocals from Hawley, while “Leave Us Alone” is the song that blew me away. Featuring a killer bass line from Mikel Van Kranenburg ripped right from the 80’s new wave era, the song has the immediacy of The Cure’s best A-sides, while rocking with the swagger of today’s best songwriters such as The Killers. The band truly came out to play on this song and makes for a late record hit. Ideally, replacing the order of “Flashy Love” with “Leave Us Alone” in the sequencing would have been a home run of a move, but I can’t fault the band too much with so much great material to chose from on the LP.
Overall, Night Riots impressed me greatly all over again on New State of Mind and provided the necessary distractions from the ever-changing world we live in. They surely haven’t reinvented the wheel on this record by any means, but the band has made a terrific album in a crowded 2019 scene that finds it more difficult than ever to stand out.