Artist: LAYNEAlbum: The Black Hills EPReviewer: Briana McDonaldFor fans of: The 1975, PVRIS, HalseyIf the sub genre “dark pop” ever ends up in the dictionary, you’ll likely find a picture of LAYNE. In The Black Hills, lead singer/guitarist Layne Putnam draws her moody underexposure from her childhood in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and her colorful, creative muse from the everyday liveliness of the City of Angels. This quartet is a nod to the new sound of indie and alternative pop/rock, pairing heavy but simple drum beats with poppy guitar and synthesizer. It brings the best of both worlds together into a strong and captivating EP. The Black Hills opens strong with “Topical,” a song that criticizes the person Putnam is interested in – or, rather, who is too interested in her. They seem to be a regular hipster type: “But you’re so pastel monochrome, like the bands nobody knows,” Layne sasses her “letdown love.” This track relies on impressive guitar techniques that keep the listener grooving, with a breakdown in the bridge and closing that borders on indie rock.Track two is synth-heavy “Twuh.” Somehow, this song manages to feel both heavy and gossamer, as Putnam promises to “Show you what it means to be in love…Won’t listen in to all the bad you’ve done.” “Twuh” seems to be about proving everyone wrong about her lover – an us against the world mentality. The chorus is catchy, listeners finding themselves humming “actually” against their will even as the EP continues on. “Don’t get in my way, cause I’ll fight like the boys do,” LAYNE warns in third track “Boys Do.” Despite the laid-back guitar melody and tempo, the song carries a strong message of toughness and strength. Girls can do anything boys can do, and Putnam’s lyrics make sure to remind the listener of this as she metaphorically describes her various struggles with her past. “You can be anyone that you want to, I know. And you can do anything that you wanna do, so go,” is a standout line in this track.The fourth and final track on The Black Hills is “You”, another empowering track describing a journey to self acceptance. Possibly the most relatable song on the EP, Putnam discusses her loneliness, as she says, “Most days I hate myself, but I won’t be anybody else.” This song places value on the importance of love, support, and being true to yourself, and placed atop two overlapping guitars and groovy musicality, the message resonates well with listeners. The Black Hills somehow perfectly manages to come together, blending the faraway dismalness of the mountains of South Dakota with Los Angeles’ energetic city vibes. Putnam’s lyrics and guitar melodies make the EP catchy without sounding repetitive or common, but still representing the indie-dark-pop genre as a whole. I’m counting on hearing more from LAYNE soon.