It’s refreshing to see a two-piece rock band go for something other than minimalism these days. The White Stripes and the Black Keys are great and all, but this rampant bare-bones blues fetishism-act needs to die.

That being said, the Atolls are indeed a two-man, guitar and drums rock outfit, but they manage to not only bring some originality to the image, but even avoid blues influences altogether, something that’s damn near unheard of at this point.

The Atolls’ new self-titled EP showcases their brooding alt-rock sound, marked by singer Daniel Martin’s powerful vocals and a steady stream of simple guitar lines that results in songs well over the reach of most duos. The band has a definite sense of humor about them (they describe their genre as “cottage cheese”), and they’re at their best when they let this playfulness shine through on “Older Nazi Boyfriends.” The song comes off as an inside joke brought to fruition, even ending with collective laughter that evokes a connection between the bandmates lacking elsewhere on the EP.

The seriousness surrounding the remaining three tracks is their downfall. Martin’s lyrics aren’t as intelligent as he thinks they are—lines like ”I did something I’m not supposed to do” and “It’s not a crime if no one around is watching” are clearly intended to be more anthemic than they come off—and their persistence across the EP is more preachy than moving. The bombastic delivery used throughout the record is often alienating, a sharp contrast from the warm guitar melodies they too often overpower. On tracks like “Low Tide,” the vocals are reminiscent of the worst parts of 90s alternative: arena-rock volume, coupled with a deep, uncomfortable tone and themes too shallow for the size of the sound itself.

There is definitely a lot of to love about this EP, however. “Older Nazi Boyfriends” in particular is brimming with potential, and if the duo can tap further into the manic energy that makes that song so damn catchy, there’s definitely a future ahead of them.

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