Review by A|E Beats for Demencha Mag.
Most folks are familiar with the acronym EP which stands for ‘Extended Player’. The term is commonly associated with the understanding that the offering is not a full-length record, but on the other hand, it’s not a bunch of independently released singles thrown together with the hopes of making a quick buck. At its core, an EP is typically four to six songs that cohesively provide the listener with a snapshot of an artist’s current musical offering.
What few understand, are the reasons behind why an artist will chose to release an EP over a full length. I’d argue that there are two main reasons. The first, is that new artists quickly realize the value in having a professionally recorded set of songs when trying to book shows and gain social media awareness. I’d equivocate it to your high school job. In the grand scheme of things, it most likely will have little to do with your career but it will provide some real-world experience for your resume. The second reason, is that EPs are cost-effective, have a relatively short time duration to get from the studio to your stereo, and allow an artist to really hone in on making each song the best it can be since there is no room for filler. This latter reason was the main driver behind why Captiva chose to release their new material as a self-titled EP.
If you’re not familiar with Captiva, they’re a four piece from Kansas City whose sound falls somewhere between 311 and The Lonely Biscuits. They’re calling their new EP a ‘debut’, but if you’re from Kansas City or Lawrence and are familiar with local music, I’m willing to bet that you’ve probably seen them live or at least have heard the name as they’ve been around for about three years and have a lot of recorded material on their SoundCloud page. Turns out that the reason behind calling their new EP a ‘debut’ is due to the fact that as they’re developing as songwriters, their sound is changing. It’s not a drastic change, but a welcomed one. I fully appreciate this ‘re-branding’ of Captiva, if you will, as although I enjoyed a lot of their older material, their self-titled EP shines the light on more mature and intricate songwriting. Bottom line here is that if you liked Captiva before, you’re really going to enjoy this. If you didn’t, then I’d challenge you to give their music another go around, because I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
The opening track ‘Chemicals’ starts off with a funky instrumental that builds in instrumentation and intensity, flowing effortlessly into the first verse. Once the verse hits, the guitars start to play opposing rhythms, but do a great job of synching up when needed to keep the focus on the main groove and smoothly delivered vocals. The song then transitions into a laid-back pre-chorus which drops in dynamics and quickly builds back up into a two-part chorus with a succession of musical hits. The use of these various rhythmic hits throughout the song play a key role in its transitions and introduce the newly matured songwriting of Captiva. Furthermore, if you really pay attention to the song’s structure, a clever writing approach is taken after the second chorus. The pre-chorus is brought back and used as the transition into the outro, which has a slowed down reggae-inspired feel and will probably be one of the main go-to sections of the EP for their greener fans. Changing the tempo more than 10 beats-per-minute in a song is extremely hard to do if you want it to sound good. So, by using the pre-chorus as a way to ease into the outro, instead of jumping right into it or writing another part to the song, Captiva made a really great decision to keep things familiar, yet progressive.
Next up is ‘Stimulating Freeze’, which is the most islandy feeling track on the EP. This would be a go-to song to play when you’re at the beach and could easily fit on a playlist right between ‘How Bizzare’ by OMC or ‘Fly’ by Sugar Ray. Patrick’s vocals and Jackon’s harmonies sit perfectly within this acoustically guitar based track, and I really enjoy the latter half of the song when the drums briefly move in and out with a more latin-type groove. I’ll be honest though, at this point of the EP, I do miss their sporadic use of rapping.
Yup, that makes sense and is again, a key reminder to the matured songwriting on display here.
“Road to Ruin” was the first single released, and is the most upbeat pop-esque tune on the EP. The tempo and dynamics of the track are consistent throughout, with the exception of the half-time feel in the first half of the bridge. If you’re a fan of the two singles Captiva released earlier in the year ‘Smooth Interrogation’ and ‘Illusions’, you’ll immediately take to this track. Which makes sense, because parts of the song developed directly from the four piece jamming on it at practice, allowing their subconscious to take the forefront.
The highlight of this song, aside from the infectiously dancy chorus, is the post-chorus guitar solo. Either I’ve not been paying attention, or they let Patrick free to do his thing in this section as it’s technically clean, yet highly melodic and focused to fit within its ten second spotlight.
To wrap up the EP is my favorite track titled ‘Sometimes’. In listening to music, I seek out instrumentation instead of lyrics usually, but the opening line caught my attention.
Keeping aligned with the lyrical content, Captiva put on their loosely-knit composer hats and molded their instrumentation around it. It’s the most progressive song on the album, not abiding by the typical verse-chorus pop song structure, but still maintaining its cohesiveness throughout. The first half of the song starts off very innocently in a singer-songwriter vein with just an electric guitar and Patrick’s sparsely delivered vocals. When the drums kick in, well placed harmonies help elevate the light hearted mood before the ‘drugs’ start to take effect. Once the metaphoric trip kicks in, you’re introduced to a Captiva that you’ve never heard before…a laid back Phil Collins influenced jam complete with a groovy bassline, atmospheric backing synth and multiple guitar lines that fill the remainder of the sonic spectrum with call backs to the guitar melody in the first half of the track. I really hope they explore this sound deeper in their future work.
Captiva’s new EP is a solid 15 mins of music that they can easily add to their resume, displaying both their growth as songwriters and as touring musicians. You can catch them on the SnoDaze tour in January with the Expendables. If you end up going to a show, be sure to bring a creepy looking doll with you, they’ll thank you for it.
1/5 – Copper Mountain, CO @ MU SnoDaze College Ski Trip*
1/12 – Breckenridge, CO @ Iowa SnoDaze College Ski Trip
1/13-15 – Steamboat Springs, CO @ KU SnoDaze College Ski Trip*
* w/ The Expendables