It’s rare to hear artists take a variety of influences, take the best pieces from each of those artists, and piece them together to form a brand new puzzle. Nice Life from Portland, ME are students of songwriting. Their new EP, “Lunch In Le Mans,” is a wild ride. It’s math-y. It’s shuffle-y. It’s driving. It’s even twangy at times. Nice Life is all things to all people.
The EP’s opener, “Afternoon In Restigné,” gives us our first entrance into Nice Life’s weird world. After a few pleasant seventh chords and a bittersweet melody, a driving upbeat and thumping bass-line take us to a different dimension. It’s difficult to write a song that defies expectations. Just after the two-minute mark, the song takes another turn. The bass becomes saturated with chorus, and the rhythm becomes a little more syncopated. It’s prog-esque, while still maintaining firm emo and alt-rock roots. After the twists and turns of this first song, all bets are off as to where the EP could go next.
The clean guitar tones on this record are refreshing, especially in a world full of fuzz and reverb. The opening riff to “Soft Magnolia” is spooky and unsettling. When the drums and bass kick in, it becomes a perfect, mid-tempo groove. The bass line and vocal melody are oddly connected, almost as if the bass is anticipating where the vocals are going to go. “Soft Magnolia” will have you bobbing your from side to side, totally lost in a sea of seventh chords.
“Stop N’ Mart” could have created a new genre – something like twangy prog-rock. It’s a minute and 45 seconds of some of the most bizarre music I have heard in a long time. While it’s steeped in oddball, post-punk grooves, “Stop N’ Mart” is also insanely catchy despite being an instrumental track. What this song proves is that the members of Nice Life understand melody. In both the guitar riffs and bass lines of this song, there are enough hooks to be stuck in your head for days.
And finally, Nice Life selected the perfect song to close out “Lunch In Le Mans.” While it’s tempting to put a slower song at the end of an album or EP to wind down, Nice Life kicks up the energy on this last song. “Wi-Fi” is a power pop gem. The main riff is reminiscent of Big Star, The Cars or Cheap Trick. The drums pound out an incessant beat, while the palm-muted chords offer up an irresistible hook. You’ll be singing this song for days, especially the line, “Something something something by the sea.”
In less than 12 minutes, Nice Life have taken us from prog rock to indie rock and all the way back to ‘70s power pop. Underneath all of these potential genre labels, it’s apparent that the members of this band have taken their time studying the craft. Fans of good songwriting, catchy hooks and post-punk weirdness will find a near-perfect home in “Lunch In Le Mans.”