Since their 2015 Soundcloud debut, The Band CAMINO has rapidly become a staple of alt rock music and my Spotify diet. Having titled themselves “your mom’s favorite band,” their songs sport soaring guitar riffs, dark vocals, and mournful lyrics wrestling with love and personal identity.
Following their rise to popularity, the band’s music has gradually become more produced, straying away from their old recipe of spotlighting electric guitars and melancholic melodies in favor of synthesizers and pop-music vibes. If COIN, Colony House, or The 1975 are your jam, you’ll love them.
Their latest release is “tryhard,” their third EP (although Spotify is convinced it’s an album), which showcases their newer, more energetic sound. It’s worth noting that the band releases most of their music as singles, which creates the curious situation of four songs (well, more like three and a half) of the eight on the EP not actually being new. Likewise, they don’t tread much new ground when choosing song topics: heartbreak, poor romantic decisions, and self-doubt. The fantastic novelty and energy of “tryhard” come from more melodic bass lines, brighter vocals, faster tempos, and bouncy synth riffs.
The opening track, “What I Want,” is the half-old song I mentioned earlier. Having released the original version in 2017, the band chose to tweak the intro of the song and clean up the vocals a bit. I miss the cutting harmonies and plucky guitar riff of the 2017 edition, but the updated sound fits well with the new style.
Next up is the first new song, “Hush Hush,” in which lead vocalist Jeffrey Jordan goes over the plan for a clandestine rendezvous with a lover, repeatedly imploring, “Hush hush / Don’t give it away.” That catchy tag, the lilting but powerful electric guitar lines, and driving drums make it hard to not nod along to the beat.
“Daphne Blue” is another previously released song, but it fits perfectly with the rest of the EP. It foreshadows the band’s transition to their new style as the vocals cut from dark and rounded in the pre-chorus to the bright, belted-out first line of the chorus: “You got me off-track, got me thinkin’ abstract.”
Switching from lost love to current relationships, “Honest” (their most recent single) begins deceptively laid-back with twinkling synths and auto-tuned background vocal tracks, giving way to punchy bass lines, wailing guitars, and unrelenting drums.
The fifth track on the EP, “See Through,” is the last to have debuted as a single. It was also my most binged song over the summer; I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to memorize the staccato, impassioned chorus (“I’ll be outside, I been cooped up / Bloodshot eyes, need a ride, will you pick up?”) on my commute. Arrangement-wise, it’s similar to “Honest,” with an emphasis on pad loops and synth choirs in the verse and more “classic” instrumentation in the chorus.
It’s hard to pick my favorite song from this EP, but the next two may be the top contenders. “Haunted” starts with a cheerful-enough synth loop and driving two-part intro, only to drop off into a musically sparse, voice-and-drums driven verse. The vocals rise to a wail for the chorus, and the song never completely lets go of that angsty energy.
Its competition, and the next-to-last track on the album, is “Farsighted.” The band wraps this fretful, introspective tour of self-identity in a positively bouncy bass riff, chipper synths, and a generally upbeat vibe. Incidentally, the song contains a delightful description of inner monologue: “There’s a voice inside my head that I call me / Who’s a collection of conversations and melodies.”
Following the trend of disguising pained lyrics in upbeat tunes, “Break Me” concludes the album by picking apart the narrator’s justifications for staying in a possibly abusive relationship. This soul-searching is set to biting synths, lively drums, and relentless guitar lines. “I hate the way you make me just / Wish I could make you hate me” is a brutal way to describe a relationship.
In a Facebook post regarding the EP’s release, the group shared, “Somewhere along the way people have called us ‘try-hards’ thinking we took ourselves too seriously or were trying to be something we weren’t. Of course, we are try-hards. The entire reason we’re here is to create something bigger than ourselves. A lot of times people use ‘try-hard’ in a derogatory sense, but we’d rather own the fact that we’ve given every ounce of ourselves to making this music.”
The effort The Band CAMINO put into this record shows, and careful listening has only increased my initial, immediate enjoyment.