The Hunted is available via:
Los Angeles, U.S.A.
The album, World on Fire, is available via:
17th November, 2017
THIS will be the last review of an artist with…
so few photos. That is not a shot at The Rigs – I accepted the review before my New Year’s embargo. That being said; it is nice to take my mind away from London and over to Los Angeles. I vowed to get away from our capital for a bit but, inevitably, the London-based reviews have come my way! This changes now and, in a bit, allow me the chance to talk about Los Angeles and the music of California. I want to return to the parapet of duos and why their connection is unique; a bit about standing out in a competitive market; how The Rigs’ music continues to evolve and strike; ways they could further evolve and stand out; playing in the U.K. – and why this year will be a busy one for them. I do not review albums – I keep telling people this – but I have been interested in The Rigs’ music and how it gets into the head. I will allude to their album, World on Fire, but have highlighted previous single, The Hunted, as the one to focus on. There are so many different and bold tracks on the record: picking one to highlight is hard – the limitations of my own rules, I guess! No matter because, as I shall explain, it is an intense and fascinating track from the L.A. duo. I want to come back to L.A. and why it is an area that continues to fascinate. Last year, several times, I mooted the possibility there are differences between the two big music areas of America: Los Angeles and New York. Historically, New York has always fascinated me more – I find the Hip-Hop and Rap that has come from the state has been stronger and more enduring than anything from the West Coast. L.A., through the years, has managed to rival New York in terms of style, variation and strength. We get that impression (Los Angeles) will be all about sunny music and Electronic sounds. The Rigs, to be fair, prefer their music electronic but, in keeping with the state’s ever-changing motifs; they fuse in other genres and sounds into the palette.
I have never been to L.A. – something to tick off the list for this year – but I know its vivid landscape and amazing people are enough to compel the creative mind and lead to stunning music. London is a fantastic city – as I shall argue later in the day – but it is becoming crowded and, in terms of its music scene; perhaps it lacks the same innovation as somewhere like L.A. Perhaps that is to do with the scenic splendours of Loa Angeles; the space available and the kind of artists playing there right now. The Rigs’ TJ Stafford and Caitlin Parrott have a very immediate and sexual connection. You can feel a passion between them, and so, when they record and perform; there is that understanding and bond. Everything is deep and immersive; the music has a more alluring and complicated quality. I will come to look at that advantage but, in terms of where they are based – I feel New York is starting to lose a bit of headway in the coastal race. I have looked at the five boroughs and the music coming from there and, whilst striking and strident; there are fewer standout artists than previous years. Some fantastic new Hip-Hop artists are intriguing, for sure, but L.A. hooks me with its width, colour and excitement. Other areas of the U.S. – Nashville and Austin – are producing wonderful music: to me, there is nothing quite like L.A. Who knows how the city will progress but, with the likes of The Rigs producing strong and always-changing music; I have no doubt the duo will continue to rise and conquer the city. The fantastic venues (another point I will explore) and a strong neighbourhood mean the music coming from here means it is at the forefront of the musical consciousness.
Great duos have always been on my mind but I feel 2018 will be a big year for them. Solo artists are dominant and, with bands not quite able to exert the same influence as they once did – this year will see smaller formations take some initiative. To me, bands succeed and remain when they produce people-uniting, popular sounds. A lot of the new bands coming from either possess little clout or unable to compel the mind. At times like this, for bands, I want songs that bring the masses together and stray away from the demands of the mainstream: something that gets the voice singing and talks about what is happening in the world. Solo artists and duos do not have that burden. They are able to explore more and, because of that, are proving more popular and mobile. Duos could, in theory, easily succeed. If they tried to force the same aspirations as bands – and go for something big and generic (not all bands sound like this: there are those who differ) – then that could be risky. Most duos, I have found, prefer to stick with electronic-based music. I am not sure why but, I guess, it is harder to produce a proper-full Rock sound or summon the command of a Punk band. Electronic music has a flexibility other genres do not and is free to assimilate all other genres. The Rigs have noted this and, on their debut L.P., sprinkle in all kind of sights and fabrics. It is a fascinating blend and comes with that rich vein of emotion and physicality. There is a very real and urgent relationship from the players. I am not sure what their status is but, when you hear the music; there is a deep understanding and flow that can only come from two people very close and connected.
Duos are either composed of good friends or lovers. That might be true of every act but, compared to bands, there is little wiggle room for anonymity and distance. A duo is like a relationship and, if you do not have complete faith and affection for one another…that will show. Even if it is only friends making music together; you are recording, writing and performing together – and any sign of weakness is more evidence than, say, a four-piece band. Stafford and Parrott could tire of one another and argue for control and influence. Instead; they have a solid foundation and respect and, as writers, are on the same page. Since 2014, the L.A. duo has managed to compel the city and get into the critical mindset. Listening to their album, World on Fire; I can only imagine the recording and writing sessions. It is wonderful hearing them work with each other and weave their magic; bring that intimate and vivacious connection to the forefront. If the music The Rigs was producing was weak and insincere then I would overlook the relationship connection and suggest they were not right for one another. There is a clear and unbreakable chain that unites the two and, when it comes to their music, they allow one another to experiment and express. Another reason why I feel duos will make a stand in 2018 is because of the lacking role of bands. We want to discover a solid unit that can provide a fulsome sound and songs that get into the brain; music that keeps on producing and providing wonder long after you have heard it. There are, I know, some awesome bands but there are few that lack real bite and endurance. Duos seem to feel that gap and, those like The Rigs, can clean up. The guys have the intensity, intelligence and force of a band but, unlike a lot of the groups in the mainstream like now; they want to earn credibility as opposed money and streaming figures – some of the worst lures of modern music.
The Rigs could easily fade into a packed and busy market. Many are noticing the quality of duos and, as a reaction; that is seeing others form and come into the music world. I have mentioned how electronic-formed music forms the basis of most duo music – because it has that nimbleness and chance for endeavour. This is true when you listen to The Rigs. If they were to copy everyone out there then that could lead to a very short career. The fact they have been performing together for four years means there is a demand and need for what they were providing. I am hearing a lot of like-minded duos that are performing variation of Electronic music but are not showing much originality and determination. They seem happy to stay in the rut many have assumed and never think about going any further and making any real impact. This is true of duos in the U.S. and U.K. and I wonder whether one of the biggest shake-ups needs to be quality control and skimming. There are loads of duos and, whilst they are leading the bands; there are so many that do not really resonate and stun. The Rigs have seen the market build and change and, realising how the average duo operates; they have taken a stand and spent much more time on their music. What amazes me is the way you imagine a fully-fledged band when hearing their sounds. It is fulsome and dramatic but, when needed, it dips down and puts the lights out. If they were to produce a one-dimensional sound then that would be foolhardy: the guys take in so many other sounds and always ensure their music is disciplined and on-point. So many other duos throw loads into the mix without thinking about formation, consistency and nuance. I am worried commercial trends – more people lusting after duos – means many are rushing into the market and not considering the importance of quality and depth.
Maybe I am being a bit too severe but, with music being so busy, there are no excuses for taking shortcuts and playing it safe. Up-and-coming bands like Confidence Man are showing duos where they might head. That may seem like a strange angle but, if you listen to their sounds; they are producing music unlike any other four-piece and playing around with electronics. There are a few duos who match their innovation and colourful hues but, for the most part, one gets something more muted and restrained. The Rigs, in their own way, have the expansiveness and quality of Confidence Man but I feel, as their music progresses, they might take on some of their sound. Many might assume The Rigs are a very serious and emotive duo. There is venturing into playful territory but, given the comfort and faith Stafford and Parrott have (with one another); maybe they will explore a fizzier, bubblier brand in the future. I am not trying to lead their career because, as we hear with songs like The Hunted – they are among the most impressive duos out there at the moment. My point is the best and most necessary duos are those who can provide quality and effectiveness without compromising. Of course, you need to grab the ear of the mainstream but not compromise and settle for something easy. Too many in music are bargaining quality and innovation for something muted and unspectacular. There are duos who fail to register - but I feel the best out there are much more affecting and appealing than the best bands around. The Rigs take from the surroundings of L.A. and dip into the past of music. They, I imagine, grew up around an array of artists – one hears that in everything they do. The connection and relationship help but that need to stand out and impress is the strongest facet. Here are artists who do not want to play to small crowds and be seen only as local heroes.
The Rigs’ music has evolved and built since 2014 and I am impressed by that. They could cement a sound and then repeat that for years to come. World on Fire is their debut album but they have produced a couple of mini-albums since their formation. I notice, with each one, you get different influences and aspects. They are such an eclectic duo and, with every move, improve and add new elements. Because of this, the guys have seen their music come to the attention of the T.V. industry. True Blood, Parenthood and Pretty Little Liars are a few shows that have featured their music. That is no small feat and, given the success of these shows; who knows how many people would have heard their tunes?! Their album, produced by Michael Smith, is solid and extraordinary. Smith has worked with the likes of Britney Spears and Kesha but you never get a sense of either artist in The Rigs’ album. There is a big sound and experimentation but nothing bombastic and Pop-based. The music (of The Rigs) goes deeper and has a more enduring and endearing skin. I will allude to certain tracks and their standout characteristics but, with that T.V. exposure and great producer under their belts; you have a duo who have taken steps to outlive and stand aside from their peers. Talent and passion account for their success but making that bold move in terms of producer mean they have a man who has worked with some of music’s best names. Providing his insight and experience into the mix; one gets a combination of young and hungry artists and an older hand. I wonder whether they will work together on future music – or whether this is the only pairing we will see. The production is never too shiny and plastic and, whilst it has sheen and polish here and there; the emphasis is on bringing out the true personalities of The Rigs’ creators. It is a stunning concoction that means every song gets under the skin and has its own identity.
I wonder whether the duo will come to the U.K. because, as I see it; they are on the rise and creating their best music right now. Their debut album is not the first thing we have heard from them, I know. The E.P.s did good business and seen them accrue a band of fans and supporters. Reviewers and journalists are behind them and the California scene is buzzing and responding to their sounds. I am excited to see how far The Rigs can go but, as we are in 2018, I wonder whether they will come over here. I am not sure whether they have played the U.K. – I can do more research, I guess – but it seems natural they would want to appear here. Whilst we do not want President Trump stinking up our country: a trip from The Rigs would be welcomed and much-needed. We have a big and expanding Electronic/Pop scene and duos who would support and play alongside The Rigs. The venues and spaces we have here would put them up so maybe, let’s hope, there is a mini-tour of the U.K. planned. It would be wonderful seeing the guys here and hearing their music in the flesh. Now, with an album out, there is a demand and desire for the music of The Rigs. They will be busy playing their local area but I wonder whether U.S. dates will take precedence. The nation is huge so it is understandable should they want to remain here and cover as much (national) ground as possible. International dates cost a lot of money and it can be quite a struggle affording that kind of ambition. With their music popular with producers and the entertainment industry; I feel there are shows and directors here who would like to experience The Rigs’ music close-up. Let us not get ahead of ourselves and put words in their mouths – I hope they think about us in the months to come…
“They come with bows and arrows” the heroine speaks. It is a chilled and slightly wary vocal that points to possible chase and anxiety. Maybe she is being stalked and love, in all its cruelty, is ready to take a shot. Perhaps it is more a feeling of general unease and the way life can close in. The first few moments see the song exult shimmering synths and a mix of warm and cold. It is a cinematic and rousing introduction that manages to project stir but keep restrained and controlled. The teasing and softer vocals mix with the more spirited instruments to create a juxtaposition. Our girl is the chosen one and hunted; she is being chased and selected for this special ‘honour’. The video sees lovers in bed and, as the heroine awakes; the head is sore and the eyes wary. She touches her man and then, as she gets out of bed, there is a ringing in her head. That might be a niggling doubt but one suspect it is something that has been there for a while. Intangible yet raw and persistent; a voice that resounds in the brain and creates a feeling of stress and worry. I am not sure whether this hunter has discovered infidelity and transgression from the pair – maybe they are cheating or not being as pure as they could be. Perhaps it is the clock of love telling (the heroine) things are going to end. Whatever the origin; you bond with her and the pain she is enduring. That always-soft voice never explodes but, instead, investigates and poses questions. She is being pursued and is not being given time to rest. Why is she being selected and hunted? What does this all mean? Will it end soon? These are considerations that need answers and, as time goes on, that pain and fear come to the surface.
Other songs that appear on World on Fire have a more spirited sense of attack but this is one of the more emotive numbers. The instrumentation creates a storm and sense of drive but it is that impactful and meaningful vocal that stands out. You are brought into the songs troubles and turmoil. Rather than stand aside and plea with the heroine; the listener is motivated to take action and explore. The song gets steamier – the video certainly does! – and, against the bowing and weapon-priming; the lovers are racing and arm-in-arm. Some of the words, unfortunately, get buried in the composition and production. Rather than put the vocal higher up – making them more intelligible and clear – they are drowned, at times, by the electronics. That might be for dramatic effect but it means some of the words get drowned and swallowed. Perhaps that is to create a certain sense balance but it would have been good to pick up a few more of the words. It is a shame because Parrott’s voice is so full of life and contours. It expands and flies as the song progresses and shows the determination to overcome and succeed. The duo’s erotic and passionate kiss – as one sees in the video! – is in the foreground as, behind them, protestors are holding signs and trying to break the glass. That might suggest what the song is about: people not approving of their love and trying to undermine it. The sense of impending violence is there and, with Smith’s production turning the tension all the way to eleven – the listener is compelled and hooked right up to the last note. The closing moments of the song bring in rapturous notes and snarl; the song comes down and those questions and declarations are left there. I wonder whether the sweethearts were afforded peace and whether they managed to evade the chasing hunter. The Hunted is a stunning song that showcases what a tight bond Parrott and Stafford have. They ensure the song remains fascinating and emotive from the first to last – not many artists can do that with such ease!
The Brave is a perfect, carnival-like way to open World on Fire. It is an instant and explosive song that sees Stafford’s vocals howl and build; rapture and explore. Parrott’s alto creeps through and ensures every chorus is bolstered and electrifying. Runaway is a synthy track that has a Pop edge and can be seen as one of the more ‘traditional’ and accessible tracks on the record. Fall or Fly, a standout, sees the duo combine and blend their differing tones into a harmonious whole. It is a sumptuous and emotive track that really does remain in the heart. Exploring issues like broken relationships seems, to them, have a very personal and emotive edge. I know that sounds odd but it seems like, on that song, they are speaking about their own relationship and how close they are. Maybe they have taken from separate relationships but one can see an assessment of The Rigs’ connection and how they are joined together. White Flag – not the Dido song, fortunately! – frames a powerful Parrott vocal that hits their gut and creates one of the biggest emotional reactions on the album. It is a reflective and emotive song that differs from the brighter and physical tracks. That contrast means listeners are enriched more than an album that took a more linear and predictable course. I have summarised the album but that is what one can expect if they delve in. These tracks, mentioned, are among the finest but, to be fair, that is only skimming the surface. World on Fire is a rich and rewarding record that warrants some serious time and attention. Make sure you align yourself to L.A.’s The Rigs and experience the full breadth of their new album. I know the duo will go far and continue to exert influence and produce fantastic music. 2018 has only just begun but, with their album out in the ether a couple of months; attention is still coming and the desire to see them perform is strong. Were they head is up to them - but there is no part of the world who will be…
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