If the idea was to make a movie, Riley With Fire’s Marcus Brown doesn’t waste much time on exposition. The 20-year-old indie pop artist gives you just a few seconds of bliss before he cranks the reverb up to 11 and drowns you in a sea of jumbled synths on his newest release, This Is A Movie.

The opening track, “Superstar!” creeps in with a vibe reminiscent of 80’s dance pop outfits like Soft Cell and The Human League before abruptly changing the tempo and putting an end to any kind of fluidity. As falsetto-ed melodies hurry in and out of focus over the cracks of a distant snare, you’re greeted with a piercing, yet dreamy atmosphere that lingers throughout the EP.

This Is a Movie floats on with “A Diva Like Jesus” and “TV,” with the perpetually sustained synth beginning to overpower everything else in Riley With Fire’s arsenal and making it tough to differentiate between songs. Despite these shortcomings, the tunes do have their strong moments with Brown’s smooth vocals and simplistic lyricism leading the way. Clocking in at just under two minutes, “TV” shines through as a poised ballad and is what I believe to be This Is A Movie’s best track—Brown gives way to more melodic riffs and showcases his composure as a singer. While you wouldn’t find “TV” dominating any charts, you might find yourself singing along to the hook, “Oh, you’re on magazines / You play on TV.”

The second half of This Is A Movie offers a more experimental edge, coupling upbeat and aggressive pop with moments of soulful tenderness in a way that flows slightly better than earlier attempts. That being said, the overused synth patches and droning tones are inescapable, leaving the EP boring and predictable up until the final track, “I Love You.” At first glance, the song presents itself as a misty, muddied take on Tyler the Creator’s “Wolf.” Although it proves more than just imitation after a few listens, “I Love You” ends up falling short of the anthemic closer it’s trying to be.

In fact, what sticks after the last notes fade isn’t the chaos of “I Love You,” but the lingering message of the preceding “Such A Strange Time.” As the song trails off with the line, “No one change / I mean it,” you can’t help but think that maybe it’s best for Brown to ignore his own advice. This Is A Movie is an honest effort, but Riley With Fire needs to evolve if Brown wants to start turning any heads.


Album Review: Riley With Fire - This Is A Movie
  • Calm mood
  • Interesting vocal melodies
  • Monotonous
  • Tracks not distinguishable
  • Lacks fluidity
4.7Overall Score

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