Sundara Karma has captured the uneasy rhythm of teenage angst with its debut album “Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect.” The Reading, England-based band has honed its sound over the course of three EPs and as many years leading up to the album’s Jan. 6 release on the RCA imprint Chess Club Records.
The quartet of lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Oscar Pollock, guitarist Ally Baty, bassist Dom Cordell and drummer Haydn Evans formed Sundara Karma while they were still in high school. Led by Pollock, the band has created a sound that blends rock, pop and, rhythm and blues influences. Over the past few years, the band polished its best songs and on its debut album, Sundara Karma has nailed 12 tracks that combine youthful play and smart songwriting.
“Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect” is a joyful romp through around an island of indie sounds with Pollock leading the journey. The album opens with “A Young Understanding,” the band’s first single from its “Loveblood” EP. Beginning with a hypnotic guitar riff, and thumping bass lines, the song builds into the catchy hook: “Let go, there is nothing more to hide, Seeing life through closed eyes, It’s just a young understanding.”
“Loveblood” has the perfect mixture of hopeful lyrics, brooding sounds, a shout-it-out chorus and an extended musical bridge that makes a great indie-rock song. Of the moments overwhelmingly powerful and pure jubilation on this album, the end of “Loveblood” is the best.
The best song on the album is the single “Olympia,” which seems to be the band’s leave-it-all-on-the-field moment of emotional release. With its heavy rhythm and “Romeo and Juliet” storyline, the song’s chorus is sung by the wayward teenager character: “Hey, what’s that from above? Is it love for blood?”
The band wanders into roots and folk territory on the acoustically-driven tracks “Happy Family,” “Lose The Feeling” and “Deep Relief.” These songs feature clap-along rhythms and more atmosphere for the band to experiment with its sound; where its other tracks that seem to fill every possible moment with indie-pop jam.
Sundara Karma excels at creating some unique indie-rock moments during the danceable chorus of “Flame” and the hook of “She Said.” With Baty’s grungy guitar riffs, the dominant drumming of Evans and Cordell’s driving the bass lines, Pollock is free and flamboyant in his delivery.
Pollock’s pent-up performance sends “Be Nobody” into a sprawling folk-pop territory. He equally dominates “Vivienne” in a way that creates and releases tension throughout the song that is only just less powerful than the song’s thumping bass drum. Although Pollock leads this group, the rest of the band falls right in line to create smooth harmonies and emphasize the right moments.
For its first major record label release, Sundara Karma avoids the indie-rock tropes to create a solid stand-alone effort in “Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect.” The album completely captures its best songwriting and adolescent energy for an enthusiastic adventure.
See Sundara Karma with 888 and Coast Modern on the SiriusXM Presents Alt Nation’s Advanced Placement Tour Thursday, April 13 at The Foundry at The Fillmore Philadelphia in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Friday, April 14 at the Songbyrd Music House in Washington, D.C. You can win tickets for either show by entering the SiriusXM-sponsored sweepstakes.