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Album Review: Sideways by the Batrays

By Grace Bell

An ocean view is often championed as the ultimate awe-inspiring image, however the landscape of the Southwest is an under-recognized rival to the title. The endless stretch of desert begs for adventure much in the same way that open water does. It is why there should be no surprise that Santa Fe, New Mexico is the birthplace of the incredible Surf Rock album Sideways by the Batrays. 

The current Batrays lineup succeeding the album release.

At the time of recording the album, the Batrays consisted of Milly Taylor as the vocalist and guitarist, Nich Quintero on lead guitar, Annie Garcia Campos on bass, and Taylor Penner-Ash on drums. This album takes the listener to a salty -- or dusty --  dive bar full of music and energy. The swinging rhythm of each song implores your body to move and would be at the top of the list for a road trip playlist. 

The opening track "Lady Cowboy" lulls the listener into a rugged waltz before launching us into a frenzy of guitar, drums and powerful vocals. This song, along with the others on the album, does not indulge in flowery lyrics. They match the punch thrown by instrumentals to create a fiercely unapologetic track. The lines "When you lied to me//And said I had your heart//I never thought you’d //Leave such a nasty scar" illustrates the relatable and concise quality used to discuss the content being addressed. "Funnel of Love" exhibits a similar musical journey as it starts with the quintessential surf rock guitar before the layers of Southwestern music and Punk descend upon the listener. The components of uninhibited writing with raw instrumentals unite to create a complex, full bodied sound. 

The title track, "Sideways," wastes no time embracing an easily identifiable rock rhythm and harmony. It embodies the nostalgia that the album curates despite its newness. Sideways was released in 2022, but its use of archetypal sounds create the feeling that you've known this album for forever. Once again, the band makes use of stripped down lyrics to communicate the content of the song. While we can see more poetic imagery with the line "Follow her till I get her with those golden tears of mine," the song does not wallow in sentimentality. The narration captures a relationship and a woman that remains a mystery while allowing insight into their dynamic. This balance of intimacy and lightheartedness encourages listeners to find joy in relating to the narrative of the song. 

"Heart over Head" is another fantastic example of the layered complexity that commands the album. It follows the pattern of serenading listeners before powering into a screaming climax. It contains my favorite lyrics of the album, "Like a monkey at a zoo//I’ve fallen for a baboon//I’ll wait for you//Eternally." The hint of humor in this track makes it all the more endearing by putting a twist on the time old tale of forbidden love.

The Batray's BandCamp says it best: "We Big, we bad, and we Bats riding surfboards down the Rio Grande." If you're a fan of the Aquadolls or Sinners, the Batrays are a must listen. All three offer a new take on the Surf Rock genre, and the Batray's do so with a western twang that grounds the music in its birthplace. They are a powerhouse of music that begs to be seen live, but if you can’t make it to a show you can find them on Spotify, BandCamp and Amazon Music. We can’t wait to hear what comes next from the Batrays.

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