In the current indie sphere, bands that come with a rootsy/folk/Americana tag proliferate, tending to become one large, lumpen mass. But on River City Extension’s sophomore album, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger, the eight-piece band proves it is still very possible to stand out in the oversaturated genre.
River City Extension finds its niche by taking typical acoustic instruments—upright bass, cello and banjo are all used on the record—and pushing them outside their normal dimensions, incorporating bright indie-pop, punk and country structure, with the slightest touch of world. There is no one sound to be found on Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger; it’s filled with melodious harmonies, mourning trumpet and bouncing piano equally. On a record that incorporates so many different instruments it would be easy for the sounds to become competitive, but there is an acute awareness of each, with none overwhelming the others. And throughout it all, the album still manages to contain a certain rawness at its core intrinsic to River City Extension, felt as you can still hear fingers dragging down guitar strings. It begs to be seen live.
Each song is filled with extremely personal yet intensely relatable lyrics as band leader Joe Michelini’s rough voice sings about alcoholism or wanting what he can’t have, creating a palpable emotional tie with the music. Often backed by heavy, affecting strings, his words make it is easy to melt into the album and find yourself completely lost. Michelini’s dynamic vocals hold the record together, parts both Jeff Tweedy and Win Butler. His voice changes throughout the 14 songs, fluxing with the contours of each verse and providing each track with a distinctly different feel.
The only problem to be found within the hour-long record lies within the very end: the last track is a lo-fi recording of Michelini and a non-melodic instrument that delves into his own struggles. While it is understandable that he’d want to leave the listener on a personal note after such an emotion-drenched album, it only serves as an unwanted and sharp decrescendo, abrupt with its bluntness. But even so, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger will leave you with a new favorite track after every listen.