Album Review: Riverby — “Smart Mouth”

Posted: by The Editor

When I listen to Smart Mouth, the debut from the Philadelphia rock band Riverby, I can’t help but think, as I often do, of Jimmy Eat World. It’s not as though the songs on Smart Mouth sound all that close to any of Jimmy’s classics, although there are traces of the pop-rock gold standard of Bleed American and Chase This Light embedded in the DNA of Riverby’s most exciting tracks. But the similarity rears its head in the spirit of these songs, wringing triumph out of heartache and the difficult and messy work of personal growth.

The comparison also appears in the form of Sophia Greenberg’s voice, which, not unlike the inimitable Jim Adkins, pours out of them in an abundant show of heart throughout this wonderful debut, reaching for the rafters in a dazzling show of honesty. 

This is to say that on Smart Mouth, there’s no doubt that Riverby—Greenberg, Tyler Asay, Doug Keller, and Dan Nazario—really mean it. Opener “Nose to Nose” struts onto the scene with a wry confidence, culminating triumphantly in a chorus that gives a confrontational quality to self-examination. “I’m nose to nose with myself again,” Greenberg sings, their voice rife with a combustible urgency.

“Smart Mouth” follows up on the record’s energizing opening with a pounding track that twists a would-be insult into powerful retribution (“just give me a chance and I’ll rip your heart out/ I’m such a smart mouth”). This may be Riverby’s first full-length, but these opening songs show that they’re not interested in wasting time fucking around—these are fully-formed and brilliantly conceived pieces of power pop. 

And for the rest of Smart Mouth, the band never loses that footing. “Giving Tree” turns down the intensity a little bit but maintains plenty of spunk, playing on Shel Silverstien’s book of the same name to sharply describe an unbalanced relationship. “Out of Tune” is a roomier song with echoing xylophone plinks and vocal harmonies. Here, the band offers a more measured, patient examination of a lost love, reaching a reserved apex in the record’s quietest, most heartbreaking moment—“it took a year of waiting at your door to realize I didn’t know what I came here for.” 

Like the best emo records, there’s a lot of hurt to be found on Smart Mouth, but there’s also a lot of hope at the heart of these songs. “In My Dreams” closes the record in a wall of dizzying guitars, emphatically waving goodbye to a difficult past, even if there are still pieces left to be picked up and an aftermath still unfolding. Like all of Smart Mouth’s fervent and electrifying pop-rock songs, “In My Dreams” allows Greenberg to shine. When they sing “I’ll see you in my dreams,” over and over throughout the course of the song, they seem to be continually reaching for a higher concentration of honesty, a new level of communicating exactly how they feel. The best bands in the game start off doing this and never stop.

With Smart Mouth, Riverby hit the ground running in this endeavor, and it’s evidence they’ll do great things should they continue to reach for them.


Jordan Walsh | @jordalsh

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