Sunday, 20 April 2014

EP Review - Eleanor Dunlop

Eleanor Dunlop EP
by Eleanor Dunlop (out now)

I recently found this lovely EP in my letterbox (one of the perks of writing for IMKOS is the occasional CD snail mail!). I was immediately taken by the beautiful illustrative cover. For those not in the know, illustration is kind of my “thing” and when combined with good music it delights me to no end to pour over the little details. The cover features two inked horse heads divided by a water coloured leaf and a lot of water colour splotches. Eleanor Dunlop's name is scrawled over the top in a heavy, black, hand written ink - tying it all together very nicely indeed. The theming follows onto the back. As far as design goes, the cover is very on trend, very beautiful and oh so whimsical.

I first heard Eleanor Dunlop's single 'Disguise' on Triple J late last year while driving in my car. I was taken by the sound of Eleanor’s smooth voice and the major/minor turn-arounds on the piano. Later, after trawling through YouTube to find this song I noticed that there were more than a few references to 60s Bond soundtracks in the comments under the clip. It was understandable why. Although somewhat sombre in mood, there was something excitingly dangerous and sophisticated about this track – and perhaps about the musical persona of Eleanor herself. So I was happy to have a copy of the full EP to hear how this song fit into the journey of the recording – as well as to hear what else Dunlop has on offer.

The Eleanor Dunlop EP opens with the track 'Waiting' which features a delicate piano intro before Dunlop’s voice captures the ear. I was immediately reminded of a mix of a lighter Fiona Apple and Megan Washington in the vocal tone. The sultry breathiness mixed with a smooth and towering strength is a difficult blend to accomplish for any vocalist. Dunlop does it seemingly effortlessly – and while hitting the right note on the keys with delicacy and feeling. 'Waiting' fills itself out with some driving drums and big bassey stride keys that up the emotional stakes and add a dynamic layer of texture before dipping back into the more simpler keys and voice. I love this play of drama Dunlop captures in this big emotive ballad. Much like 'Disguise' I began to sense that Dunlop’s song writing favours drawn out legato in her lyrical phrasing. This slower delivery of the story (besides making the lyrics easy to understand and ultimately to remember) makes for a beautiful emotive thread that sews the elements together beautifully.

The new single 'Rough Side of Town' is second on the EP. Percussive, moody piano opens this song before Dunlop entrances us again with her vocal warmth. “Maybe there is still time and maybe there is still time. Oh I don’t know I don’t know anymore…” The introspective mood started in the first track follow into this second song. The lyrical themes are simple yet effective: human relationships and the tension and unease that they can bring. “You kept on hanging around, showing me the rough side of town. I’ve said it once, I’ve said it twice, but not again.” There is again a lengthy delivery of the lyrics and repetition of the phrases which really underlines the emotion behind each line. This song feels tailored for anyone needing some reflective time to sit in their own heart and let the pain pass through.

Three haunting chords begin 'Standing Guard' - the third track of the EP. The themes of this song hint at the desperation to find the balance between two people while holding onto some sense of self. “I’m standing guard where there was nothing before; I beg you for this to be over now; once and for all; I know we can be alright now - And show them what we are both made of…” Dunlop has obviously delved deep into her heart's journal to bring forth the wounds of the human heart to be drenched in the healing waters of music. It was around this song that I realised I knew half a dozen or so people who might especially benefit from the bittersweet soothe that this EP has to offer. I’ve always maintained that to heal a heart's hurt, that the healing benefits with the pain first being brought to the surface and explored thoroughly. Dunlop here, is your tour guide.

I was happy to hear 'Disguise' as the fourth track on the EP and revisit its moody march again as part of this recording. It fits well as the fourth track along and indeed as a bead in this necklace of emotional and introspective musings.

The last song 'Always Be Here' features a more dreamy sound scape led by guitar as opposed to the keys. There is always something hopeful to me in the sound of a single note repeated on a guitar as the bass and vocals play around it. “If only I knew what I know now…. I wouldn’t screw it up I wouldn’t pack it in… I’d take reign of that big black horse… And let him know and let him know I’ll always be here…” Some beautiful imagery and perhaps a post note to the listener to seize what they have when they have it. Philosophical musings and interpretations aside, this was a lovely end to the EP – and had me hitting the replay button.

I really enjoyed the reflective journey that this EP provided. The elements are all here for the making of an amazing future as a solo artist for Eleanor Dunlop.

Lou Endicott gives the Eleanor Dunlop EP four Michael Hutchence heads out of five...

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