Priests radiates the “screw you” attitude — but their vibe is the only consistent element of their band. Formed in 2012, the punk quartet is without a doubt bold in their style. But musically, Priests can’t quite pinpoint their sound. This is evident with their debut LP, Nothing Feels Natural — following their 2014 EP, Bodies and Control and Money and Power.
Overall, the album gives off a Courtney Barnett vibe in terms of vocals, yet far more aggressive and slightly deranged. Katie Alice Greer, frontwoman of Priests, leads the band’s tracks with a sing-talk stream of consciousness — but it doesn’t put her vocal chops to justice, which are actually quite good and definitely not present enough on this album. She’s got the pipes, and she should use them.
Nothing Feels Natural opens with “Appropriate,” an upbeat track with low bass and guitar tones that transform into a chaotic jam session. By jam session, it’s more like a musical raucous with aimless drumming and guitar.
Next comes a toned down, low strumming bass, followed by a cymbal crash and a series of notes from what might be an oboe — angry jam session or seance? Truthfully, it was a bummer to the ears.
A more pleasant track follows with “Jj,” opening with playful piano and a nice guitar riff strangely reminiscent of the Beach Boys.
“Nicki” is up next, an example of Greer’s talented vocals, but more blaring guitar and cymbal crashes — it’s good to get the existential crisis out of the system, but don’t make the ears bleed.
“No Bang,” purely sing-talk, precedes “Interlude,” which is by far the most bizarre song on the album. It seems as if it were plucked from a sad symphony, complete with strings but no percussion or vocals. Is “Interlude” honestly from the same band?
The ears get a moment of relief with the title track, “Nothing Feels Natural” — the highlight of the album. Greer showcases her vocals, as do the other members of the band with their background pipes. As a whole, the song is more melodic and musically appealing than the other tracks.
The ending song, “Suck,” also reflects this nice change of pace — except the random saxophone and high-pitched cowbell in the bridge might throw listeners off.
The eighth track, “Pink White House,” is a shining example of Priests’ lyrical prowess. One can’t help but notice the tie between this song and the nation’s recent state of affairs: “A puppet show in which you’re made to feel like you participate / Sign a letter, throw your show, vote for numbers 1 or 2.”
“Puff” probably beats out the others as the worst track on the album. It sounds like a song Carrie Brownstein would improvise on the spot for a first season “Portlandia” episode — particularly the one where she and Fred Armisen painstakingly compose a song for Portland. Anyone who’s seen this show knows that’s not a good thing.
Not only were Greer’s vocals not in sync with the percussion on “Puff,” but the talk-singing amplified into straight yelling.
Despite their lack of consistency in terms of musicality, Priests’ lyrics are quite good. It’s worth reading them while listening, just to get a bit more out of the songs.
On a general note, the band tends to be upbeat with an “I do what I want” kind of vibe. Unfortunately, their songs sound as if each is from a different band. Yes, this is better than a band whose songs all sound the same — but Priests failed to hit the sweet spot in between.