‘How to: Friend, Love, Freefall’ and the constant of change in Rainbow Kitten Surprise
“Hold my hand darling/Pull me in your waters/When you call my name, I’ll be on my way,” the opening lines of “Pacific Love” off of Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s new album “How to: Friend, Love Freefall” ring out. And ring out the whole album does. The album continues Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s pattern of blending folk and Americana with elements of rock and indie music. What results is a set of uniquely constructed albums with soulful lyricism, passionate vocals and well-complementing instrumentation.
“How to: Friend, Love, Freefall” fits into this established tradition of musicality. In this album, Rainbow Kitten Surprise continues to evolve and change their music style while maintaining the core elements of what always makes their music great. “Seven + Mary” was their first and most folky album, which combined haunting melodies with the unique and striking voice of lead vocalist Sam Melo. “RKS” followed adding more rock elements to the Rainbow Kitten Surprise style. Now we see “How to: Friend, Love, Freefall,” which appears to bring more folk back into their style, but in a different fashion than that of “Seven + Mary.”
“How to: Friend, Love, Freefall” doesn’t just drizzle folk in it. While folk dominates the sound, the album still contains elements of rhythm and blues, country, rock and even gospel among a plethora of external genre influences. What might seem to be a cacophony of clashing styles settles together in a fantastic way. The song listing on the album brings a good measure of variance to it while maintaining a general sonic theme.
The album builds on the vocals established by Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s earlier albums. Melo’s unique voice stays at the center of the Rainbow Kitten Surprise experience, but in this album, he’s not alone. While other Rainbow Kitten Surprise albums have occasional backup vocals, this album features backing vocals from the voices of the other band members in every song. The vocals feel much more dynamic and layered in this respect.
Change is definitely a core theme within the album, as almost every aspect of the album is an evolution of Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s previous work. The roots of this album were laid in “Seven + Mary” and “RKS.” As different as these three albums are, no band other than Rainbow Kitten Surprise could have made them.
The lyrical themes of the album continue from their previous works. There’s much about love and loss, as is obvious from the album’s title. “How to: Friend, Love, Freefall” crafts a melancholy yet optimistic story filled with hope, loss, love and history. Much of the album reflects on the success of a band. The phrase “mission to mars,” which pops up in multiple songs, refers to the odds that the band faced while starting off. Additionally, the band’s subtle and not-so-subtle religious themes come up more blatantly in this album than in their past releases. Although obvious at times, the religious themes are never heavy-handed; they serve to enhance, add emotion and illustrate much of the music in the album.
Although I personally don’t enjoy this album as much as their first two, I had a similar experience with “RKS”—it grew on me a bit after its release—and I feel like the same might happen with this album. In fact, I already enjoy it quite a bit more than I did on my first listen.
“How to: Friend, Love, Freefall” occupies a space between change and consistency. While the album appears quite different from the band’s previous work, it is much more of an evolution than a revolution. The deep, layered sound of Rainbow Kitten Surprise is featured richly in this album and emerges in new and exciting ways. The album is hauntingly beautiful and brings allegory into the spotlight. “How to: Friend, Love, Freefall” states that Rainbow Kitten Surprise is not content to stay where they are and signals to the future a band that will keep innovating and pushing their music style into unexplored territory.