Lion settles into a comfortable but driven sound for her new EP. With four tracks of angrily pronounced, angsty alternative rock, there’s a prevailing Americana flavour to this short but immediate compilation of music. Sonically well rounded but instrumentally simple, the EP is highly accessible for newcomers to Lion’s sound.
The opening track kicks things off with a fair amount of self-aggrandizement. Lines like “can’t tame me ask all my friends” simultaneously hint at mental complexity, inner turmoil and a suppressed god-complex. It’s not easy to like the character portrayed in ‘Self Control,’ but the tune is a rambunctious beginning to proceedings. Despite this, it’s lacking in rhythmic diversity. The track doesn’t shift or introduce enough new ideas across its runtime; the stops and starts of the drums could have been saved for the verses alone.
‘Oh No’ brings a lurching instrumental to the party, with Lion’s raspy warm voice being the most interesting part of the song. Unfortunately, the main meat of the arrangement (the guitars, bass and drums) doesn’t do anything groundbreaking or particularly exciting, but there are some highlights. Despite being so straightforward, there’s some incidental instrumentation to peak your interest when listened to in detail, such as little swells of feedback and subtle drone notes. These create a nice sense of space in the verses, and there’s some good structural diversity too, with a jarring middle eight that sounds like it’s been plucked out of a Bon Iver B-side.
The arrangement of ‘Fiction’ is much more exciting. A big meaty riff clips you round the ear at the onset and establishes itself as the main motif, which contrasts nicely with the spacier verses. However, the riff itself is, for lack of a better word, derivative of an Albert Hammond Jr. track (‘Caught by My Shadow’), and that similarity became distracting. However, comparison aside, the track is fast and fierce, barreling through its paces and ending abruptly.
Turning the corner into ‘Garden,’ Lion’s tact changes violently. Capitalizing on the spacey nature of many of the previous tracks’ verses, the final song focuses on dissonant jangly acoustics and Lion’s up close and personal vocal delivery. Here, acts like The Dead Weather and Lorde come to mind, with a moody swell taking the track to a crescendo, then back down to its usual sombre intonation. It’s a great change of pace for the EP, and a solid choice for the closer, however some of the lyrical content could have been more oblique for the sake of retaining a bit of intrigue, a suggestion that could be applied to many moments on the EP, actually.
In essence, Lion hits all the necessary beats for a rock-centric EP: stacked guitars, deep thuds from the drums, and lots of overwrought vocals. However, she doesn’t bring very much new to the table, and certainly nothing that would cause your ears to prick up in amidst a playlist of similarly ‘alternative’ material. This being said, although there’s little in the way of nuance, there’s plenty to like for fans of this style. At its best it’s a strong, characterful listen, at its worst it lacks depth and needs more oomph diverted from the attitude and into the songwriting.
LION’s debut EP is out now on Fiction Records – Stream/Purchase the record here.
Photo Credit: Dan Evans