REVIEW: Driver Friendly – Peaks + Valleys

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BAND: Driver Friendly
ALBUM: Peaks + Valleys
LABEL: Hopeless Records
GENRE: Power-Pop, Indie Rock

With hooks flying and an energy surrounding them that could wear out any sugar-high, hyperactive pre-teen, Driver Friendly is not only selling you their music with their latest release Peaks + Valleys, they’re selling you a work ethic. Both onstage and off, no band in the industry checks in harder than this collective when it comes time to punch the clock. Take for example the group’s self-controlled campaign to send their infectious cut “Messidona” viral. The boys took to Twitter, addressing and directing their Tom-Hanks-tribute themed video at anyone they thought would listen. Eventually, with persistence and dedication, the video found its way to Hanks’ daughter, then finally Hanks himself, who retweeted the track to his six million followers. Though in the grand scheme of the industry, the victory itself might seem rather small and yielded varied results, it is this drive and never-say-die approach to their craft that has kept Driver Friendly alive.

With the release of Peaks + Valleys, their first cut to drop on Hopeless Records, the band’s head is not only firmly above water, but they’re swimming at an Olympic pace.

The five track EP is slammed with significantly more energy than most bands manage to fit into your average full-length. “Run” for example, the release’s opening track, is driven by an overwhelmingly flawless combination of driving floor tom and dueling guitars and horns. The song is perfectly polished, resulting in an efficient balance of power-pop structure and indie rock essence. The song builds endlessly into a fall-away chanting of “build a bridge” before slamming back into the wall of sound that Driver Friendly has mastered over the years. Brilliantly placed, the line is yelled in a manner that leaves listeners both fist-pumping and doing the Carlton. As usual, the band has somehow managed to create an album that balances starting a riot and attending a rave.

This trend continues into “I Can See Canyons,” a jumpy and twitchy bass and guitar number that shifts into a rather steadfast and straightforward chorus. The song sets up “Ghosts” (which fades into “Messidona”) in an obviously intentional manner. “Ghosts” spirals uphill, with a catchy guitar intro making way for drums before exploding into two minutes of catchy chanting. The solo usage in the stand-alone is addicting and organized against the chaotic guitar structures of the verses. After building into a wall of noise, the quick work of a song makes way to the album’s longest track, “Messidona.” The trio makes up the catchiest chunk of the EP, with “Ghosts” and “Messidona” possessing a substantial supply of radio-worthy aspects.

Easily the best track Driver Friendly has ever released, “Messidona” features a number of the band’s finest qualities. For starters, the song spotlights the band’s brass section stronger than any other track on the album. With trumpets blaring and trombones… um… tromboning, the back swell of action is consumed by wind instruments. Placed perfectly behind the band’s clear, spoken lyrics, the song swoons through a plethora of swells and falls, noise valleys and audio-rollercoasters. The song possesses every aspect of what has taken Driver Friendly from the underdog role to the Warped Tour stage.

These qualities erupt into “Shark Cave,” the album’s closing track. The straightforward power-pop number possesses plenty of the elements that made their previous albums Chase the White Whale and Build a Dream undeniably infectious. That ability to get their claws into you without having to reinvent themselves with every album is exactly what makes Driver Friendly great. That’s called being timeless, and it is a quality that cannot be taught.

If they’re not already, that’s exactly why this band should be on your radar.

SCORE: 8.5/10
Review written by: Josh Hammond

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