Everything great about the band is on full display with "On the Fly," the album's standout track. On the verses, the guitar, bass, and keys weave a warm, colorful background that borders on jazz fusion, each frequently peeking out of the mix to make its presence known. Meanwhile, the lead vocalist flexes her stylish dexterity with easygoing vibrato and plenty of runs. When the verses run out, she improvises while the production clouds her voice in distant echoes. On each subsequent chorus, the band's meandering pulls together into a brief pop rock spectacle. It nails down a singable melody and caps off a series of "oh"s that align nicely with a unique buzzy guitar riff, forming the album's biggest earworm.
The chorus to "On the Fly" is also a good indicator of where the EP stands lyrically. It reads "Boy you drive me crazy / Boy you drive me wild / Spinnin' round in circles / Doin' it on the fly." The majority of Preface captures young, budding relationships without the benefit of hindsight, which is a lightning-in-a-bottle approach the group wears well.
"Friction" deals with hesitant attraction, and "Hands" addresses being held down by a significant other. Both seem to stem from the same narrative, and its clear from their inconsistent conclusions that these songs come from a perspective planted in the midst of the whirlwind. One ends with "Come lay in bed with me," the other proclaims, "I'm ridding myself of you," and the more musically sensual of the two is not the obvious choice.
The biggest exception is "Veruca Salt," which retains the first-person perspective but slips into a completely different persona. Named for the spoiled rich girl in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the song applies her something-for-nothing prerogative to celebrity. The piano swing and blues rock guitars set a spotlight for the singer's showboating of "I wanna rule the world / And get all of the girls." While the occasional line like "What's so wrong with wanting more than 9 to 5?" shows some rationale, it's quickly supplanted by more overt talk like "Make me rich, and stop taking so f***ing long" to keep the satirical spin clear.
While the very title of the EP conveys a strong sense of direction in anticipation of a future, fuller work, it's admittedly clear that the band is still in its formative stage. In fact, its lineup has already visibly changed since this recording, shrinking from a 5-piece with a keyboardist to a 3-piece rock outfit. To attempt to mine anything defining from Preface would be premature, but there's plenty of direction to warrant speculation.
Any ambiguity in the album actually works in favor of it as a standalone work. The songs are written such that they learn little but experience much. The musicians have a clear sense of song structure, but they also like to stylistically meander. "Sideshow" in particular, wonderful as it is, feels like it's from another album when it starts. All of this together reinforces that notion of wild young love run amok with pheromones and excitedness. Like Preface, it's new, unpredictable, and full of passion, even in the face of mixed signals. When the album closes out in a vibrant, danceable duet, it does so with a bang that does what The Happily Entitled does best—feel the moment.
Preface is currently available through Spotify, iTunes, and other major digital services.