An Old Friend has seen a lot of changes in rock n’ roll culture in their brief time in the spotlight. From the different trends that have reshaped the alternative sound occupying the radio for the better part of the last thirty years to experimentalism on the underground front, the world is hardly the rock-centric planet it used to be, but that isn’t stopping this band from bringing us consistent hard rock rhythms in their new single “Native Garden” the same way icons always have. “Native Garden” doesn’t attempt to fit into any of the conventional boxes contemporary pop music is often categorized by; instead, this track and its lyric video dig a sharp hook into us and pull, revealing a slew of statements on our modern times that audiences everywhere should relate to.
In both the video and the single itself, the guitars feel like the biggest stars in “Native Garden.” There’s scarcely a moment in which they aren’t the most prominent component in the mix, and although the vocal does plenty to illustrate the narrative through moderate poeticisms, they would be utterly colorless if not skewed by the crackle these strings are producing around every twist and turn in the song. These kinds of riffs are the exact reason why artists like An Old Friend are still in business after years of laboring away on the road and in the studio; their type of violent rock revelry never really goes out of style, but instead becomes more in demand at times when the populace needs to vent.
These vocal harmonies are as crisp as an early summer morning, but it’s worth pointing out that they’re not nearly as sterile and squeaky-clean in tonality as a lot of the other punky rock content I’ve been reviewing in the last few months. One of the biggest problems this band’s contemporaries have faced in 2023 has been bleaching their vocals to the point of sounding so ghostly and glowing that they border on negative transparency, lending no foundation to any of the words that are being sung to us even in instances that would be considered quite cathartic otherwise. An Old Friend avoids this conundrum entirely by steering clear of the trends and leaving well enough alone behind the board.
Those who like a little extra edge on their hard rock need to make a point of checking out what An Old Friend has to say in their new single “Native Garden,” as it’s undeniably among the best guitar-focused indie rock tracks I’ve been spinning on repeat this month. “Native Garden” debuts with a lot of oomph that I was hoping to hear, and it has the feel of a summer song sonically, cosmetically, and beyond. The bottom line is that this is a track showing its creators letting their hair down while also staying tightly focused on what matters most to their identity. I’ve been following their story for a while, but right now, it’s difficult to say what their future will hold as the possibilities continue to grow.
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