Irving – I Hope You’re Feeling Better Now EP

I Hope You’re Feeling Better Now EP

Last year I reviewed Irving’s debut full-length, Good Morning Beautiful, and came out with mixed opinions. On the one hand, you had an obviously talented band writing sweet little pop songs. On the other hand, the band was extremely derivative, and their constant genre-hopping felt forced at times. I name checked everyone from Malkmus and Lou Reed to Neutral Milk Hotel and Wilco as bands that Irving was playing off of. So imagine my surprise when their EP, I Hope You’re Feeling Better Now, opens with six minutes of adventurous, dynamic indie rock.
Indeed, “The Curious Thing About Leather” opens the album in grand fashion. A soft bass coaxes the listener into a shower of “la las” that evoke all the warmth and intimacy of the band’s hometown, San Francisco. Gobs of feedback and distortion rupture the mix, oscillating between the speakers before a buoyant bass line ushers in the song the Belle and Sebastian have been trying to write since If You’re Feeling Sinister. It’s abrupt, catchy, and most importantly, extremely unexpected. The band nails the end of the song, erupting into a sugary choir, ushering out the song just as abruptly as it appeared, six short minutes earlier. Damn. Now that’s impressive. And even more impressive is the band made it seem effortless. Five songs of this stuff, and this is the killer EP of the year.
Well, not quite, but it might be close. There’s no shame in saying that nothing else on the EP touches “Leather,” but it’s still disappointing, given the high hopes the track inspires. That being said, each of the songs on this five-tracker shows a band finding its groove, putting its own sound together, and growing exponentially as a songwriting unit. “I Can’t Fall In Love” is an jangly crooner, caressing the Elephant Six catalog jealously, but still playing host to bittersweet, understated melody. The arrangement is perfect, neither too minimal nor too orchestrated. The band sounds confident and spontaneous, two qualities that are often essential to strong studio output.
“The Guns From Here” surfs a Cars-y keyboard line, sidestepping the arena-rock power chords that usher it in. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Malkmus influence, but it’s less dramatic, and another succinct statement of pop confidence. “Please Give Me Your Heart, is All I Need” is somewhat less successful, if only for the disorienting, abrasive circus of voices that interrupt an otherwise pleasant stroll. “White Hot” is the only song that falls flat, opening with a Strokes-ish guitar grin, and relying much to heavily on an annoying “rock “n roll” chorus that echoes some of the Stones’ least successful endeavors.
This EP shows infinitely more potential than the band’s debut LP. The first song alone is worth the price of admission. It is better in every way – skill, confidence, experimentation, and cohesion. This is the sound of a band finding its way, five songwriters who might just have a great album in them somewhere down the line.