Delaware trio The Splashing Pearls is set to release later this month its fifth album since 2011, Tabloid Tales. The title was chosen both because of the LP’s strong emphasis on storytelling and the clever portrayal of characters similar to that found in the tabloids one typically sees in check-out lanes. Band members Peter Scobell (guitar, ukulele), Cooke Harvey (bass), Larkin Salemi (vocals, steel drum) bring together familiar elements in an interestingly unique way. Larkin’s vocals are reminiscent of Amy Winehouse with a little less smokiness and power. The melodies are rock-inspired, yet played with instruments associated with folk and Caribbean music, such as Larkin’s steel drums (often played a little off key). No wonder then that The Splashing Pearls refer to themselves as an “indie island folk rock” band.
The thumping beat of the album’s lead single, “Voodoo Love”, is defined by a bass and steel drums. The playful melody comes in sharp contrast with the darker lyrics. The track is a great reflection of just how odd combining a ukulele, bass, and steel drums is and yet it somehow works.
It feels like Larkin’s steel drums are used quite simply as an extra guitar, such as when it flirts with the ukulele and the vocals in “Richman’s Arcade” or helping the bass and guitar lead the rhythm in “Awkward” and “Mr. Splitsville”. The already simple sound is stripped further in the oddly cheerfully melancholic “This Old Building”. Unfortunately they do slow and dreamy only in one track, putting their own twist on the classic ‘femme fatale singing in a smoky bar’ in “Soldier Boy Blues”. “Emerald City” begins with a storm of sound that tells a very familiar tale as one might expect of a track with this title. “Awkward” is anything but, The Splashing Pearls once again managing to bring together unusual sounds in a coherent, catchy whole.
Tabloid Tales brings together 12 tracks which, much like the tales found in tabloids, feel fickle and leave readers hungry for more. But they are quite the contrary in the richness of sounds and form-fitting melodies the seemingly incompatible instruments play, so they do leave listeners hungry for more—in a good way. More information about the band is available on their official website. Some of their tracks are available for streaming on ReverbNation.