The Roar: "I Can't Handle Change"The Roar: "I Can't Handle Change"
New band from Phoenix lays down a fresh pop gem
Late last year, The Roar, a small-time band from Phoenix, Ariz., released their debut EP, I Can't Handle Change, for free download through Quote Unquote Records (quoteunquoterecords.com). An array of terms can be used to describe it: "Indie-pop," "art-pop," even "neo-soul" (according to the band's MySpace). But none of these oft-slung terms do The Roar proper justice.
I Can't Handle Change is a pleasant diversion from the "popular music" that is churned out a dime-a-dozen from all corners of the indie music scene. It is very reminiscent of an early-to-mid 60's pop style, but with a modern arrangement that at no point sounds dated. The album features an assortment of instruments — like the cello, trumpet and bells along with the usual guitar, bass and drums — that lends nicely to The Roar's characteristic style.
Side A (called "Side Ronnie" on the album insert), opens powerfully with a wailing slide guitar, which sets the tone of the title track and gives way to a Beatles-esque fuzz guitar (think "Taxman") playing behind the album's first vocal harmonies. As one of the many strengths of "I Can't Handle Change," the vocal harmonies are a standout — at times sounding like the Beach Boys, at others, like a barbershop quartet — but always refreshing. The track progresses through many movements before returning to the slide guitar, and closes as explosively as it began.
One quickly realizes that The Roar does not subscribe to a typical pop-music format. Evan Owens, 27, The Roar's songwriter and guitarist, said of his music, "There's none of the usual verse-chorus-verse-bridge, no A-B-A-B-C-D. It's more like A-B-C-D-E-F-G." Indeed, the style is easy to hear throughout the EP, and is the band's main differentiating factor. Owens, along with several bloggers, has used the term "A.D.D." to describe the music.
Side A goes through two more tracks, closing with the slow and melodic track of the album and gives way nicely to Side B ("Side Phil"). Side B opens with a short a cappella and then dives headlong into "Christmas Kids," one of the album's gems.
"Christmas Kids" follows the sad love story of Ronnette and Phil — the album sides' namesakes — although Owens said that not every song was explicitly about these two characters. The track moves along through high and low in the Roar's non-linear fashion before the album draws to its closing track, "Just a Fan." This final track gives a mellow and haunting tone that appropriately brings I Can't Handle Change to its end.
According to Owens, he is currently writing songs for The Roar's next EP, which will be recorded in May at the Garden Center in Delaware. When asked if The Roar had taken any strong new direction, Owens laughed and said, "It hasn't turned into electro-minimalism, nothing crazy has transpired, it's still ADD." He also hopes to have a tour in July.
Although vinyl copies do exist — pink vinyl, in fact — they are in limited circulation. Three hundred were pressed, but 60 were destroyed by the Arizonan heat. Academy Records, located in Williamsburg, was carrying a few copies but have since sold out. A hard copy can now only be acquired at one of The Roar's live shows — one of which is scheduled for Friday, May 13 at the Silent Barn, located at 915 Wyckoff Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens. Soft copies can be acquired for free through Quote Unquote, or through various paid services, including iTunes.