College brought this trio together in Amherst, Massachusetts, a supportive academic community close enough to New York and Boston to provide a solid base for a fledgling indie-pop/rock band in its developmental stages. The group comes off a little derivative and amateurish on My Little Bastard Soul, but the record shows New Radiant Storm King’s emerging songwriting skills. The musicianship is shaky and shuffling at times — they might have edited this record to a shorter length — but the debut is braver, more interesting and more fulfilling than efforts from lots of similar combos who didn’t post careers nearly as long. Drummer Elizabeth Sharp, bassist/vocalist Peyton Pinkerton and guitarist/vocalist Matt Hunter wield influences as varied as their geographical backgrounds (Washington DC, New York and Phoenix, respectively).
Those influences take stronger shape with Rival Time, and the group sounds more relaxed in the studio. Hunter and Pinkerton play off each other better, Sharp’s more solid and the three produce edgy lo-fi tension and swirling, nuanced noise-pop. The shadows of Mission of Burma, early Cure, Gang of Four and Sonic Youth (as well as Sleepyhead and Small Factory) loom large here, and while New Radiant Storm King occasionally substitutes geeky recklessness for strong dynamics, Rival Time is just as often brooding and mysterious.
There are still some awkward, unsatisfying moments (“Go Back and Start” and, ironically, “Misdirected Energy”) on August Revital, but the group has shaped and streamlined its snaky, enchanting style to a convincing peak. Hunter and Pinkerton work magic making hummable melodies from discordant riffs, while the whole band moves as one effortlessly from sweeping power to delicate fluidity. New Radiant Storm King’s records all typify indie-rock ethics, embodying the struggle to make meaningful sound from a deeply personal vision.
Sharp was replaced by Garrett Fontes in 1995; over the next four years, the newly constituted trio made Hurricane Necklace and Singular, No Article.