On one hand, there's nostalgia, and on the other, there's the knowledge that sometimes they just got it right a few decades ago. Roya's upbeat, jangly indie pop has a very '60s-sounding tone on their self-titled debut album, but Rahill Jamalifard doesn't sound like your typical girl group-era vocalist, and that's obviously how she wants it. Jamalifard possesses the requisite amount of poise for this gig, and there's a breathy cool to her instrument that suits the music very well indeed. But where Roya's guitar- and Farfisa-fueled melodies boast plenty of upbeat hooks, Jamalifard is clearly the girl too cool for school; it's easy to imagine her puffing on a cigarette at the school dance with the playful cynicism of someone who knows the score. At its best, Roya recalls a stripped-down and updated variation on Blondie's early work, as the band find an arty chic in the tone of their vintage low-rent guitars and keyboards, and cast a slyly doleful eye on the world around them. However, unlike Debbie Harry and co., Roya's approach is devoid of camp, and on tunes like "End Times," "Scum Rise," and "Dr. Death," Jamalifard shows off a punk rocker's desire to say something, even if her delivery is elegant and polished. The band's spare but muscular tone meshes just right with Jamalifard's vocal style, especially Jay Heiselmann's guitar, Tyler Love's keyboards, and Hamish Kilgour's drumming (the latter a former member of New Zealand heroes the Clean). Sometimes Roya comes off as just a bit too cool for its own good, but most of the time this is an impressive introduction to a band that's channeling the sound of one decade into the mood and attitudes of another.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming