What a refreshing band. Unusual enough to intrigue, musically skillful enough to captivate and entertain – lyrically fascinating enough to feel genuinely new. All of this fuses brilliantly to create a sound that’s engaging, effective, and utterly unique right now.
The brand new self-titled EP from Arizona outfit The Runner Up kicks into gear with the superb alternative hit that is I Came To Play. With a vocal tone and melodic development that falls somewhere between AWOLNATION and Green Day, the song appeals from the offset for its sense of personality and the sheer grit and melody combined.
The band set things up with style, progressing through this post-four-minute piece with endless levels of flair and ability. More than this though, their unity is on form, meaning the song is ready and waiting to be that addictive little anthem that gets you geared up to take on the weekend and the world with the best possible energy.
Eclecticism runs wild throughout this project, though always holding close to those familiar, recognizable threads – the songwriting, the vocal performance, the mild theatrics and clear emotion.
Melanie follows the opener and leads with a synth-pop-style simplicity, starting with quiet expression before exploding into something much more bold and striking. That contrast works beautifully, and once again, the set-up is superb – dashes of colour and instrumental optimism help make an already attractive song all the more immersive and enjoyable.
Somebody follows on and keeps that unique electro-rock aura alive and well. Still, impressing all the more so, it’s the band’s songwriting that lets them stand so tall. These long-form melodies hold your attention, and the stories told seem accessible and relevant yet presented in a new, exciting way. This song in particular is all of this – brilliantly fresh yet surprisingly relatable and easy to connect with. That leading voice reaches peak identity and tone here.
During the latter half, Over pours through with precisely the rock and funk edge required to keep things moving. Great guitar rhythm meets with a rising and falling melody that washes over like a hypnotic series of waves. Then you get the completely unexpected hook, feeling almost Iron Maiden-like in its classic rock and roll brightness and intensity. There are so many sides to this band, and yet, always you know it’s them – a rare and powerful quality that I hope stays with them in the long-term.
At the penultimate moment, Pillz toys with an Americana or folk-rock set-up and a quickly addictive melody. Another absolute anthem that builds up awesomely, enveloping its audience and reminding them that a live show is likely to be where this sound really finds its feet. That underlying concept also intrigues and connects in a somewhat profound and thoughtful manner – adding further fuel to the fire.
Because You Lie brings things to a misleadingly mellow finish with a warm, likable groove. A strong bass-line contrasts with a reverb-kissed guitar line and a soft-rock, driving-ballad sense of movement. A few further touches of influence emerge, Will and The People came to mind, but there’s a heavier backbone to this. A gorgeous guitar-led outro leads things through a gentle near-finish before weight and impeccable musical unity let it all go out with a bang.
The Runner Up have it all going for them right now. The sound is unique, free from the confines of genre, inspired by the classics yet walking its own pathway regardless. On top of this though, the songwriting is superb. So many bands work on the musicianship and fail to write something that compels and captures attention and affection. Here you get six entirely original hits, each one entrancing and enjoyable in its own genuine way.
Absolutely worth experiencing – I look forward to catching a gig.
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