The Lavender Scare’s “Better Looking Boy” runs almost four and a half minutes and has an evocative sound certain to strike any indie rock fan’s fancy. The jagged guitars from Luis Servin and James Delos Reyes duel throughout the recording and generate quite a racket. It veers from atmospheric passages to a steady mid-tempo pace and both Reyes and Servin play with a keen appreciation of when they should step to the fore or back off. Synthesizer has a strong presence in the track but its inclusion illustrates the level of tastefulness shaping this composition. Servin and Reyes are considerate of orchestrating the song’s ebb and flow and achieving the right balance of instrumental sounds. “Better Looking Boy” is an entertaining track no one else but The Lavender Scare could have produced and will only burnish the Los Angeles band’s growing reputation.
The songwriting embraces unusual, even challenging, subject matter. They write about a famous hook up for queer individuals with total freedom and Reyes’ vocal peaks and falls with the lyric, owning each line. It has a slightly incongruous musical arrangement considering such subject matter but the passionate vocal and guitar fueled aural slant wins you over soon out of the gate. It starts off with restrained force, creating a mood, but The Lavender Scare ratchets up the pressure more and more as the song progresses. There is plenty of payoff making this track a breathless listening experience and it never sounds melodramatic or forced. This is a telling mark of the skill set that helps make the song so memorable.
I keep coming back to Reyes’ vocal each new time I listen to the song. He has such easy charisma that draws you closer to his voice – it’s a vocal instrument with the unique talent for inducing suspension of disbelief for listeners. Vocalists like this are in the transportation business; they take you to another world. It is juxtaposed quite well against the musical arrangement and he proves throughout the track that he can more than match the musical whirlwind swirling around him.
The focus The Lavender Scare brings to the track manifests itself in various ways but the clearest example of it is the track’s length. Reyes and Servin avoid any wasted motion; everything included in “Better Looking Boy” has a functional rather than ornamental purpose. The organ is one of the most effective musical elements, in my opinion, and adds a compelling counter-voice for the guitar work that runs through a significant portion of the songs. They use synthesizers as well, but their effect is more diffuse.
Los Angeles is home to many bands pursuing a multitude of different stylistic ends and The Lavender Scare’s “Better Looking Boy” is one of the better indie rock workouts released in recent memory. James Delos Reyes and Luis Servin have established a signature sound and approach after only a few single releases and their potential seems boundless from this point forward. They are definitely one of my favorite recent guitar band discoveries.
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