For someone I only discovered a few months ago, I have been enjoying discovering a vast back catalogue for indie artist Greg Laswell. His silky smooth vocal has a low husk and an achingly expressive higher register – and it brings home all the bacon for his latest album “Everyone Thinks I Dodged A Bullet”.
Opening with the title track, the lyrics actually finishes with “but I think I shot the gun” and it begins an album long dialogue about the bitterness of breaking up. This alt-pop rock album goes into great detail about love and the loss of it – and it’s fascinating. Greg’s able to weave simple melodies into downbeat depressive moody tracks and the opener showcases this. What really stands out for me is the diversity of how he takes a formula and plays with it. “Lifetime Ago” has some beautiful bent string arrangements over heavy drum loops. When the keyboards come in with samples you’d hear from a rave – it all fits together effortlessly. Greg’s sorrow filled voice is distant and angry – like he’s already given up. “Out of Line” is where things hit rock bottom in a track that let’s Laswell’s falsetto voice shine throughout the chorus as he laments over and over “goddamn that was so out of line”. It’s a track about the moment he realises his relationship is over and it channels the same dark pop that Bjork’s Play Dead does. Phenomenal.
“And So I Tried To Sleep” see’s the electric piano take centre stage in a smoky, quiet track. There’s an echo like it’s being sung in an empty hall and for the most part it’s just the piano, vocal and the tiniest drum track clicking quietly to the side. Intimate is how I’d describe it whereas electronic is how I’d describe the fantastic “Watch you Burn”. A militant drum roll marches on over keyboard waves and Greg’s voice being passed through a pitch shifter as he sings about mundane household tasks. I feel like it’s an expression of those awkward parts in the breakup where you can’t sever all ties and you keep the façade going. It’s a cracking track with a bite regardless. “Not The Same Man” has a beautiful string arrangement that dominates the feel and tone of the track ensuring you aren’t planning any parties any time soon – but it’s achingly beautiful.
“Birthday Wish” is the rock anthem of the album. It’s the first time the electric guitar is placed centre in a track instead of wrapping around the synths. It’s five minute epicness is one of those lighter/mobile waving moments at the end as the album shifts from disappointment and misery to a more angry and bitter side. “Take It Easy” keeps the anger by adding a lot of distorted noise onto Greg’s vocals and the synths used in the chorus. It’s harshness to the ears gets you pumped as the riffs work their siren like call to arms – I can’t help but shout along. “Play That One Again” as he taunts his lover “the one with all the strings.. where all the gang joins in” and whilst you can take it literally, you can feel the punches being blown. Production wise, it’s a song that stripped instruments away as the song progresses so it gets sparser over time – which is a nice change. The album closes with “Not Surprised” which has an ethereal section in it like Greg has reached his peace of sorts. All the way up to it, the track marches on and the tonal shift when the keyboards take over feels like a baptism.
If you couldn’t tell, this album is emotive and evocative – and it sucked me right in from beginning to end. This to me is the breakup album of 2016 so far, and once of the best of that kind this decade. Stunning.
Recommended Track: Out of Line