What began in 2013 and went through a 1-year hiatus has now come into fruition in the form of a cohesive 11-track self-titled debut album. It has been crafted to be a concept album, where the end of each song seamlessly segues into the next one, stitching up a complete narrative that explores a whole range of emotions and moods made audible with the variety of elements used. In a way, The Labrats takes us to that special place in time when the practice of skipping tracks didn’t exist yet, and therefore music nerds had to listen to the entirety of the album in its intended order.
With musical and lyrical influences including Alabama Shakes, Jason Mraz, John Mayer, and Cattski Espina, the core of this record is hinged on lyrics that tell a story, make a statement, and encourage positivity, while set against an experimental yet still melodic set of sounds pulling from electronica, pop, rock, blues, and neo-folk.
The record opens with The Cure, a somber and brooding love song that establishes the jumping-off point for the next track, Cycles, a dark illustration of violence and abuse. The minimalist riffs allow room for the intensity of the lyrics to soar, punctuated by the echoing background vocals. The mood abruptly changes and melancholy is cut off with the next three tracks, This Night Only, Vow, and First of Us. Lighthearted and optimistic, this triad lifts broken spirits, enveloping the listener with tenderness and warmth. Funk You follows suit as a fun and funky interlude to the album single, Dance Away, an upbeat anthem for good vibes with its infectious chorus and extremely catchy melody that’s difficult to escape. The record then takes a 180-degree turn with Until Love Dies. Part of 22 Tango Records’ compilation album, Folk City (released 2014), it is a sentimental ballad that’s slow like honey with its bluesy guitar riffs and lethargic cadence. Featuring elements of electronica, trip-hop, and dubstep, the 9th track, Gold from Ashes, is heavy lyrically and melodically, evoking a deliciously indulgent vehemence. As the record nears its conclusion, the second to the last track, The Adventures of Mr. Gib, is the polar opposite to its predecessor. Accompanied by an acoustic guitar and harmonies reminiscent of Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek, the song, with its quiet and profound depth, serves as the cue to an ending as Cilee sings, “We move along amidst the pain, amidst the hurt, amidst the loss, amidst the love in vain.” As a nod to The Labrats’ attitude of making music that matters without losing that childlike curiosity for fun and creativity, the entire record is then capped off with a bonus track entitled 8 BIT GIB, the playful instrumental take on the previous track that literally sounds like it came from an 8-bit video game.
Tasteful, different, and adventurous, The Labrats’ debut album marks a promising beginning and sets a whole new standard for musicians old and new alike.