Review: RAYLR – Chasing Something
National Music Reviews
RAYLR = The Band CAMINO + Vacation Manor + The 1975
L.A.-based RAYLR’s debut EP, Chasing Something, is a culmination of quarantine-era quality time. This six-song collection explores the complicated nature of relationships, navigating challenges in communication, commitment and acceptance. Adding four new releases to their discography, “Talk Slow,” “Walls,” “Haven’t Been Sleeping” and “Can’t Slow Down,” alongside previously released singles “Safe One” and “What We’re Here For,” RAYLR expand their musical range beyond stereotypical, boy-band tropes. As their website explains, “RAYLR is an indie pop/rock band composed of friends who moved in together and decided to make music,”—their closeness is clear in the balance found between each piece of the band. They stay tight, even in the wilder, high-energy moments, each member boasting equal talent.
Front man Richard Guinta’s vocals in this EP are mesmerizing, like butter spreading over a toasted slice of sourdough. Silky yet husky, Guinta’s is a voice some of us can only wish for. At times very similar to the vocals of Jeffrey Jordan (The Band CAMINO), Guinta showcases a handful of sides to his voice. He’s strong in powerful moments and trembling in gentle ones. While Guinta’s songwriting can be relatively formulaic, it’s a formula that works. Each song features its own dancy instrumental section, where electric guitars and drums are given free rein to play. His lyrics often start with some personal anecdote and gradually become more universal, and finding those relatable experiences is what makes this music so affecting.
“Talk Slow” is the strongest track here, a Goldilocks song that has just the right amount of everything—its lyrics are catchy, the melody is beautiful and the band plays a upbeat tune. The instrumental section after the second chorus is an absolute jam, with Garrett Morris’ drums leading as Taylor Warnecke and Juan Valdez’s guitars shred in and out. Guinta’s voice thrives with a mouth-watering, syrupy vibrato. He stays in a comfortable range that makes singing along practically mandatory. To anyone who’s struggled to navigate feelings for a terrible communicator, “Talk Slow” hits hard: “Stop trying to tell me you want more when you’re pushing it all away.” The frustration is clear, and Guinta eventually throws his hands up with a stinging retort: “Good luck to the next fool who thinks of coming your way.” A solid burn.
“Safe One” and “What We’re Here For” were both pre-released as singles and fit nicely as second and third tracks here. They continue most of the energy featured in “Talk Slow,” with more head-banging moments and young adult–relevant lyrics. In “Safe One,” Guinta reflects on those post-break-up realizations, belting, “Now I know the truth, it was out of my control. Now I know, you were never the safe one.” Both of these songs highlight the rasp in Guinta’s voice alongside pleading notes and beautiful leaps into falsetto.
The first half of Chasing Something will appeal to the same type of listener, but there’s a vibe shift in the middle that might not be everyone’s cup of tea. While RAYLR does their best to find a balance between cohesion and originality, it’s not a perfect transition. If this were a longer collection, perhaps this wouldn’t seem so drastic. Regardless, the last three songs offer listeners three new angles of this dynamic band.
Track four, “Walls,” showcases a stripped-back, acoustic version of RAYLR. With ethereal sounds in the production, warm drums underscoring the vocals and a heavier emphasis on Justin Watson’s keys, “Walls” is a tender apology: “I’m sorry for dragging you down too deep / I know that’s where I like to be, but that was selfish of me.” For the Hillsong acquainted out there, “Walls” has similar undertones. It’s the slow, flashlight song at a concert, achieving an airy beauty that allows Guinta’s voice to shine. While it has a climax at the bridge that builds as the electric guitar replaces the delicate acoustics, the track is overall pretty slow. It’s more in line with The Band CAMINO’s “The Black and White” era. This song is gold, but it’s the longest track here—depending on the mood, it might be a skip.
“Haven’t Been Sleeping” introduces a folk-like tempo, and Watson’s keys are more prominent. It’s a refreshing ditty to balance some of the pop-heavy moments of the EP. Like “Wintering” on The 1975’s Being Funny in a Foreign Language, this song stands out. And, in classic 1975 fashion, RAYLR creates irony by juxtaposing a lighthearted sound with heavier lyrics: “I haven’t been sleeping / It hasn’t been good,” sings Guinta as he confesses feelings of existential dread and a recent emotional low. At first listen, this song is a bit easy to tune out, but it grew on me after a few listens. “Haven’t Been Sleeping” eventually tugs at your heartstrings as you realize how true the lyrics really hit.
“Can’t Slow Down” serves as a fitting conclusion. Playing with more electronics, Guinta’s voice gets distorted to a deeper range at some moments. The effect is hauntingly vulnerable—it’s clear that this singer has been changed through the course of this EP; he’s hiked through the wilderness of his most painful thoughts and emerged empowered. This victory is acknowledged as a soaring saxophone solo closes out the EP only to abruptly drop listeners into a ringing silence. That can’t be it, can it?! We hope not. For this band’s first release, Chasing Something is a remarkable piece of art. We need more RAYLR, so don’t keep us fans waiting too long! –Katie Hatzfeld
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