Surreal Nation – I Know Better


Delaware based indie/alt rock band Surreal Nation has evolved, during its short existence, from a four to five piece act and some of that developed is well reflected by their EP release I Know Better. The five song collection features some startlingly individualistic songwriting quite unlike anything else you’ll likely hear from similarly themed music acts. Guitar, naturally, is the center of the band’s musical universe, but vocalist Nikita Yvonne (Nikki Nation) gives Surreal Nation a distinctly different texture and pulse than many of their contemporaries share. The production values governing the EP inform the performance quality without ever attracting undue attention to itself and Surreal Nation comes off as a band who has played with each other for many years thanks to their unmistakable rapport. I Know Better is, indeed, a knowing effort full of intelligent rock songwriting bristling with attitude and unique humor.

“Would You Do Me the Honor of Becoming My Mexican Divorce?” is, certainly, an unwieldy title, but it’s laugh out loud funny as well. It begins I Know Better with oodles of attitude that comes honesty rather than some half hearted pose and does a surprising job of integrating Paul Joseph’s and Jackson Vari’s guitar into the song compositionally rather than asking it to lead the way. The rhythm section of bassist Kevin Curry and drummer Gene Nelson are the real engine of this opening number and their electrifying interplay keeps the arrangement hopping from the first. Yvonne’s singing is, naturally, a key component as well that sweetens the stew and, yet, gives the song added punch as a whole. The title song takes on a couple of different faces during its run and Yvonne delivers a stellar, knockout vocal performance that keeps up with the song’s changes in tempo and texture.

“I Can Feel the Night” has a stronger, more overt commercial lift than the EP’s first two songs and drummer Gene Nelson distinguishes himself once again with an especially ferocious performance, precise yet relaxed, and intensely rhythmic. The exuberance in Yvonne’s vocal is equally invigorating. The penultimate tune on the EP, “Hangtime”, finds Yvonne’s voice excelling once again and taking on an almost Stevie Nicks-like sound. This tune runs a little under four minutes long, but it unravels with the patience of a much longer tune and has a warm, delicate sound despite the strong presence of guitars and drums. The same delicacy extends itself to the final song “Spirit is Silent” and their poetic, mid-tempo grace gets over so well thanks to the meditative mood behind the songwriting, its intelligence, and the surehanded talents of the singer and players alike. Surreal Nation’s I Know Better marks a significant step into the future for this developing outfit and, frankly, it sounds like they have truly found their sound going on from this point with the release of this new EP.


Jason Hillenburg