Her Bright Eyes is made up of vocalist Johan Brolin, guitarist Niclas Sjostedt, guitarist/vocalist Peter Nilsson, bass guitarist/vocalist Jolle Karlsson, and drummer Jonas “Mr.X” Gudmundsson. But their names aren’t even the coolest part. This Swedish pop punk group, formed in 2005, has big things coming for them if they keep producing music like the tracks on their new album, Rivals, released today.
The album starts off with a guitar heavy tune entitled “Working Class Punx” (yes, it is spelled with an ‘x’). The song actually made me a little nostalgic for Put Up Or Shut Up All Time Low. It’s fast-paced with a strong chorus and an overarching “chase your dreams” type of message. It sounds like a blast to hear (and for them to play) live, or even to blast out a car stereo, though I’m not sure I’d recommend it for softcore headphone listening.
The album then transitions into “Up & Away,” which has a familiar sort of feel, and I almost wish it came at the end of the album. The construction is nothing terribly original, but an easy listen.
And “Bonnie & Clyde (The Revolution),” well, “Bonnie & Clyde” is beautiful. In preparing this review, I had a hard time keeping my mouse away from the “repeat one” button on iTunes after listening to this gem. A little louder than the typical ballad, Her Bright Skies had me singing along to this one after the first chorus.
“Loveless,” the fourth track, reverts to the heavy guitar we heard in “Working Class Punx,” but plays on the power of repetition (“I’ll take, take, take what I want, want, want…”) to keep listeners engaged. I wouldn’t call it “repeat one”-worthy, but the guitar riffs toward the end are brilliantly executed.
I’ve always had a soft spot for gang vocals, and “Pain” does it right from the get go. Again, fairly run-of-the-mill, but well developed and the changes in tempo do wonders for the piece as a whole.
Next we come to the namesake for the album, “Rivals.” The song starts off with some slow keyboard, and picks up for a moment with the guitar added in. The first minute or so highlights Brolin’s smooth vocals with some pretty lyrics. The rest of the song seems to alternate with heavy guitar and soft singing.
“I’ll Be For You” brought out something I wasn’t expecting; is that violin I hear? The band pulls out the acoustic guitars and tones down the percussion. I’d call this song a punk-rock-ified lullaby.
“You Are The Ones” hit another soft spot. Who doesn’t appreciate a good song that speaks directly to mom and dad?
The ninth track, “Diamonds” brings together some aspects the band has already showcased: the strong guitar, rhythmic percussion, repetition, and some slightly passive aggressive lyrics (“You and your one million friends…”)
If I had to pick out the catchiest track, I’d definitely go with “Débutante.” This is a song I feel like I’ve heard in one form or another a hundred times over, but with an interesting twist and very cool instrumental harmonies.
Finally, “Sweet Sweet Revenge” closes off the record with a style I’d tie right back to the first track, “Working Class Punks,” with larger display of vocal range from Brolin.
I can see Rivals appealing to fans of Blessthefall, Man Overboard, The Used, and Blinded Black. I really enjoyed hearing this album, and it is definitely worth a listen!
Also, fun fact I found on the internet: “Lead singer Johan ‘Jaybee’ Brolin is notoriously known for his stage presence. He often maintains eye contact with a single member of the audience throughout a whole song.” So if you have any stories about Jaybee Brolin staring you down please share.