The Rum Diary – Split CD

The Rum Diary
Split CD

At one point, there was more of a similarity in sound between these two bands that would make this a seemingly destined split. The Californian band The Rum Diary uses lush, layered instrumentation with an emphasis on keyboards, and from New York City, Kilowatthours similarly plays lush music, driven by piano and keyboards and a unique, slightly ethereal style. The only difference, though, is that while The Rum Diary feels like a young band that’s at times overly eager, the five members in Kilowatthours sound like seasoned veterans at the top of their game.

The songs on this split are mixed, with one tremendously impressive collaborative effort, but as much as I like The Rum Diary, Kilowatthours clearly takes the prize, because this band has never sounded better. The extremely moody “Letting Go” is low, rich, and brilliant, dark even as the layers of electric guitar wash in. “King” is much lighter, more upbeat, and here the guitars are more the focus, while the keyboards provide a very rich underlying quality. But what hits me is the amazing vocals, reminding me so much of one of my favorite mid-90s bands Mystery Machine. “Halos” is low-key, lush, and beautiful, nicely subtle, and “Twenty Six” is another quiet, moody track, deep and dark in theme but with a resounding, layered chorus.

“{Ex}change” is the collaboration between these two bands, and it’s startlingly good. The deep vocals of Kilowatthours’ Chris Renn and Liza Stillhard’s keyboards mix nicely with The Rum Diary’s Daniel Mckenzie’s high voice and (I’m guessing) Jon Fee’s tremendously talented bass. This song reminds me equally of Black Heart Procession and Arab Strap, with a bit of Radiohead thrown in.

The Rum Diary’s songs are a bit more straightforward and upbeat and less layered. The bass on “The Electroencephalograph” is stellar, as is the conversely light drumming. The unique, high-pitched vocals are tempered a bit on “Memory Controls” with the use of nice effects, making this my favorite song here by the band. The chiming keys on “Poolside” are extremely nicely done, and the band closes the album nicely with the six-minute “In Attempt to Reach the Shore.” This shows off the band’s penchant for long, textured songs that I enjoyed on previous albums.

I certainly don’t want to sound like I’m knocking The Rum Diary, because I like this band’s music quite a bit. But Kilowatthours has never sounded better than on these songs, and I suspect any other band would be overshadowed. This one is definitely worth picking up.