When I first Introduced South of France in December of last year, I mentioned that they should be careful to not get caught up in their influences so as to not seem like another copycat. I’m sat here ten months later with their debut full-length, Another Boring Sunrise, trying to decide whether they’ve managed to do so or not. The short answer probably has to be “not entirely”, though the slightly longer would probably be “not entirely, but they’ve taken firm steps to making their own sound”. Longer yet is this review, reader, so sit tight.
Another Boring Sunrise is the journey of a band trying to find itself, and indeed, the process of making the album was quite a journey in and of itself. In the time the album was created, South of France expanded from a duo to a trio, then replaced an original member and went back down to being a pair formed by Jeff Cormack and Kelly Lueke Despite the shaky beginning, the changes in the lineup have also helped to the see the pair grow beyond that project into a more fully-formed actual band.
This growth can be seen most directly in “Kings” and “Ghost Driver”, both tracks that appeared on last year’s Kings EP and that have been re-recorded. Both remain fairly similar to their initial versions, but they’ve both been fleshed out sonically, and not purely from a production standpoint. The latter has seen keyboards gain a much more important role in the song, pushing the frantic guitars a bit further into the background to the song’s benefit. “Kings” remains largely what it was – heavy Cults influence included – but the female vocal is much more confident, proud to have its place. Granted, the changes in both songs are small, but they’re enough, along with the increased production, to have improved the songs.
Better yet are the songs that resulted from the collaboration between the band’s final lineup (the remaining ones written by Cormack alone), among them lead single “Tribecca” and “When I Came To”. The latter is a particularly interesting direction for the band, with keyboards taking precedence for the first time, as well as Lueke leading on vocals, serving to expand the band’s range and prove that they’ve got more than one trick up their sleeve. The former sees the band shine as they trade off vocals and give yet another “oooh” hook that, while simple, is still extremely effective.
While the album still has a few other gems, such as the undeniably catchy “Lost In the Morning” or “Choix”, sung in French with a great ’50s-inspired guitar solo halfway through, at times it does falter. For one, as a whole, I can’t help but feel it comes off as a bit one-note. The band has a formula, and it works well, but I wish they would have explored some new directions, as they did with “When I Came To”. There’s also the issue of the band’s personality: they have taken a firm step into presenting just who South of France is, but it does get hard at times to set them apart from the likes of Cults, Real Estate or the numerous other reverb-heavy bands. Their use of this effect is another slight misstep, in my opinion, since it does seem to blur the music a bit.
On the cover of Another Boring Sunrise a colorful, blurry picture is covered in large part by grey crosses, making it a bit difficult to see what’s underneath, with the only clear spot coming from a larger cross in the middle. In a sense it’s a perfect representation of just what the album is: a debut that shows great promise for a band that still struggles a bit to differentiate itself from its influences. They’ve still got a bit to figure out before they reach their full potential, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.