Album Review: Rival Island - “Heroes and Villains”

Since the release of their first full album Look to the Sun in 2016, Boston’s Rival Island has continued to gain traction within the rock scene. In July of 2017, the band teased fans with the release of single “Start Again,” accompanied by a playfully kitschy and retro-outfitted music video. That November, the band opened for Louisville punks, White Reaper, proving they were ready for the next step as they more than adequately warmed up the crowd. Now in the wake of these successes, Rival Island has premiered new music: a six song album titled Heroes and Villains. And it was well worth the wait.

Leading off with 2017’s beach-rock single “Start Again,” the band lures listeners into Heroes and Villians with the smooth and laid-back track. Vocalist Tommy Flynn (who you will forever picture in oversized aviator glasses and white turtleneck after watching the video) sings with a sense of effortlessness, as his vocals float dreamily over the equally chill drums, bass, and guitar. In “Come Crawlin’,” the guys shed their 70s attire but keep the slow and melodic sound, as Drummer Joe Lamonica holds the band steady with a simple and powerful beat. Then around the four minute mark, with nearly a minute left, Flynn’s vocals fade out into a dreamy melodic outro.

 Tommy Flynn of Rival Island

Tommy Flynn of Rival Island

 Joe Lamonica of Rival Island

Joe Lamonica of Rival Island

Next up is “Do You Wanna Love Me?.” Flynn is reminiscent of Cage the Elephant’s Matt Shultz on “Whole Wide World” as he sings “Do ya, do ya, do ya, do ya really wanna love me?,” matching Shultz’s passionate yet slightly muted sound. “Let Me Run” takes on a slightly more folk rock sound, with a dominating bass line, acoustic guitar, and vocals bordering on a country accent. Despite being the shortest track on the album, “On Your Own” stands out on the record as one of the catchiest songs. Quickly progressing from quiet strumming to a heavy boot stomping beat, the band goes full Mumford and Sons, in a track all but made to be played around a crackling fire on a cool summer night. Rival Island end the album with the slow burning “Le Sainte Marie,” dousing the flames and strumming along until the last glowing ember fizzes out.

 Michael Swanson of Rival Island

Michael Swanson of Rival Island

 Ryan Flynn of Rival Island

Ryan Flynn of Rival Island

Heroes and Villains is now streaming on Spotify, so check it out for yourself. Or better yet, hear them live at Brighton Music Hall on March 21st, or their acoustic set at Night Shift Brewery on April 4th.