Lots of people have been through breakups by the time they’re 20-somethings. But not everyone breaks up with a witch. But that’s what Wade Ryff, guitarist and vocalist, was dealing with when he wrote the songs on Races’ debut LP, Year Of The Witch. He and his self-described “dream team” of Oliver Hild on bass and Moog, Garth Herberg on guitar, Breanna Wood on piano and vocals, Devon Lee on vocals and percussion, and Lucas Ventura on drums and percussion do plenty of soul searching, life questioning and relationship rationalizing on this album. But what’s surprising is these Van Nuys, CA, residents break down a breakup in a more orchestral than minimal temperament.
The album’s lead single, “Big Broom,” has a video that screams youth, Americana and destructive celebration; an unexpected visual dynamic to the lyrics: “If love wears me down, if it all goes wrong again/No that will not be the end/I’d still be just a heart and limbs.” Although “Song Of The Birds” recalls unforgettable memories while breaking into a waltz of scenes from which the emotional scars were first impressed on the heart, “Lies” openly admits to giving into the pain: “I’ve been living in a lie to feel closer to you/Believing in a lie was the best that I could do.”
There are dramatic poetry, teenage moments in the lyrics of “Living Cruel & Rude”—”Hate foaming at the mouth of fear/Hate builds inside of me/It’s sneaking past my rows of yellow teeth”—but there’s a self-awareness here that saves it from the high school hell trap when Ryff follows it with “This doesn’t sound at all like me.” Ryff explores breakup pains on this album, but the upbeat, electric guitar-driven music doesn’t give him much room for moping. Like any good exorcism, Year Of The Witch allows Ryff to share and shed what’s haunting him. It might hurt now, guy, but in a year or two, you’ll see the struggle was worth it, if not for the solid indie-rock album you’ve produced, then for the ability to share the story: “This one time, I dated a witch.”