Review Summary: Progression and potential is the prospect on Sundara Karma's debut LP.
With current artists dominating the mainstream with an 80's endorsed style, like The 1975's "too long to pronounce album title/can't be arsed" second album, it is actually quite refreshing to hear a band like Sundara Karma still emerging with their straight forward indie guitar hooks and anthemic choruses. The band, based in Reading, England, have been around for seven years and have put out a few EPs and standalone singles; they have been dubbed 'a band in waiting' by various music outlets and finally made the vital step in releasing their first full length, Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect
(nearly as guilty for the long title as The 1975). It seems that the patience has paid off for the band, releasing an album full of high points and rip roaring confidence.
The opener, "A Young Understanding", immediately showcases what the band is about; catchy guitar hooks, simple but effective drum work and very solid, soaring vocal performances by the charismatic Oscar Lulu. His influence on the album is notable, especially when it comes to the themes of certain tracks such as "Loveblood" which is one of the highlights of the album. Oscar Lulu recently talked about how literacy is a key significance to the writing of some tracks. With his passion for the works of Shakespeare, the tale of 'Romeo and Juliet' and its exploration of romance and tragedy becomes reimagined on "Loveblood", portrayed through lyrics such as "One last kiss and away she goes/Obsessed with loveblood and yet no one knows'
being sung on top of towering guitar melodies, crashing cymbals and twinkling keys.
The anthems are plentiful and energetic on YIOEFIR
, with tracks like "Olympia" which has a hypnotising, looping guitar line on the verses before it explodes on the chorus, and one of the lead singles "Flame", with its Madchester-style atmosphere emulating the licks from The Stone Roses but taken into a more modern and daring production. The majority of the upbeat tracks are very similar to what 'Kings of Leon' tried to attempt on their most recent album "WALLS", but Sundara Karma seem to perform with more vigour and quite simply, with more precision and tenacity. There are also a healthy mix of slower tempoed tracks too. "Happy Family" is a nice switch and well sandwiched between two raucous songs on the tracklist, with its bouncing finger-picked guitar melodies and percussion, and "Be Nobody" has a slow climactic build and a Springsteen-esque performance which is a welcome change in dynamic.
The album can feel rather safe at times and too familiar, such as "Lose the Feeling" and "Watching from Great Heights" where the band tend to draw on the same formula used in their other tracks so the tracks do not really serve a special purpose other than to fill the tracklist. Also the first half of the album is much more immediate and has a robust and forceful impact with its hard hitting anthems and strong performances, but YIOEFIR
does lose steam towards the latter half. Sundara Karma maybe looking at the themes of youth and romance only being fun in retrospect; but their debut album proves in prospect an intriguing progression of what what the band is capable of doing next.