After over two decades writing, recording, and playing music, listeners could forgive Ryan Rosoff’s Little King for showing possible signs of wear and tear. It is harder than ever before to ply one’s passions and trade in the music world and bands fall by the wayside each year. Little King and Rosoff, however, continue pursuing music with the same physicality and commitment defining their musical endeavors since first forming in 1996. He works with a consistent core of musicians and this trend continues with the band’s latest EP release Occam’s Foil. Bassist Manny Tejeda and drummer Eddy Garcia join Rosoff on this five song collection and they breathe fire into the strong literary flavor defining the latter’s songwriting. They make a potent combination.
Hard rock is the order of the day with the opener “Hate Counter”. Topical songwriting always risks dating quickly, but there’s a way talented songwriters avoid potential pitfalls by embedding larger themes within their music and Rosoff succeeds here. An El Paso based band such as Little King certainly has an unique perspective on Presidential wall building and immigrant detention deserving a hearing, but Rosoff’s subject is much greater than headlines – it’s an indictment of moronic hatred Rosoff lashes with a furious guitar attack. It hinges on some key riffs but Little King twists the arrangement throughout the song and next settles for a straight forward arrack. Tejeda and Garcia are a formidable rhythm section packing quite a wallop.
Violinist Christina Hernandez guests on the EP’s second cut “The Skin That I’m In” and the same penchant for idiosyncratic arrangements makes this a standout number. Rosoff’s talent for writing incisive lyrical content shorn of any extraneous words leaps to the fore here and the mix a low-key musical identity with the band’s skillful hard rock makes for a potent blend. Rosoff’s voice has a consistent emotional quality key to the band’s sound and his guitar pyrotechnics are never gratuitous. Hernandez’s violin is never a gratuitous addition.
The same lyrical guitar style opening the aforementioned track returns with “Forgotten Mile”. Garcia’s drumming is especially critical with this cut and gives the music a propulsive edge when the band shifts gears into the crashing uptempo passages. Rosoff’s slashing guitar work during those moments balances nicely against the lighter passages. It’s songwriting with a firm command over the dynamics of light and heavy. “The Foil” is, arguably, the cleverest arrangement on the EP and is the release’s nominal title track. It’s brimming with Rosoff lyrical fireworks, inspired from first to last, and Monica Gutierrez provides effective backing vocals. Many will likely consider this the EP’s peak moment.
The finale “Nerve 8” is a blazing guitar heavy instrumental with another dexterous arrangement. Rosoff, Tejeda, and Garcia boast combustible chemistry that, despite the lack of a second guitarist, has no discernible holes in the musical tapestry. Instead, the instrumental provides Occam’s Foil with an emphatic exclamation point reinforcing the band’s musical talents and concluding the EP on a decisive and powerful note. This release harbors understated ambitions Rosoff’s songwriting brings to full fruition.