Lost James is an artist that started music at a fairly young age. When he turned forty he released Chapman's Pool which was used to mark the occasion. He stated the intention was to produce an EP of just vocal and piano so the aim all along was to make something simple, honest and stripped back. I was actually surprised to find the EP contains quite a bit more instrumentation than just piano and vocal. That being said the vocals and piano are at the center of the songs.
The tone of this EP is dramatic and often felt theatrical. This is a difficult balance in my opinion. If you sound melodramatic if can come off as self-absorbed and at its worst like cheesy music you might hear in an A&E made movie. On the other hand if you pull it off like Radiohead and Sigur Rós then it can be absolutely beautiful. That being said even those bands, as good as they are, can sway back and forth.
Chapman's Pool rides this line but veers more towards the sensibility of bands like Radiohead and Sigur Rós. Some moments feel like they are trying to be too dramatic but as soon as that thought would cross my mind I felt like he would quickly erase that thought in the following moment. Lost James does lean into words by imparting a lot of emotions into the inflection. The danger here again is leaning too much into an affectation where it feels contrived.
The EP starts with “Sunday” and is just piano and vocals. I liked the piano tone he got. The songs flirts with feelings of loneliness and isolation. “Toast” felt like a clear highlight to my ears. There is a nice mix of emotion and energy with this song. It’s upbeat at first but quickly turns to one of his best vocal performances. I thought the effects that were happening with the atmosphere added another layer of emotion to the song. The end of the song is a pretty fantastic jam.
We dip into melancholy and nostalgia with “wintersong.” It felt very theatrical to me. The song is a bit of a slow burn but there are some moments which rev up the energy and transform it into hope. “in bed” is the most nostalgic song yet. It’s soft, warm, pensive and cerebral. “volcano” had the most appealing vocal melodies to me. The lines “there is a volcano and there is an ocean waiting for you” is just about perfect. There is some additional atmosphere that adds to this feeling of contemplative thought.
Albums and EPs with this sort of tone often end with the most dramatic ballad and that’s no exception here. He really digs into the melancholy on this, wondering where a person he had in his life went and ends with a poetic answer. The song slowly dissipates as notes trickle down that try and capture a serene yet hopeful introspection.
I really liked this EP. One important factor is this was an extremely cohesive release. The first track to the last felt like they were there for a reason. I have little doubt the artist gave some serious time investing in how this would sound sequentially and I did notice. If you are feeling a little reflective but at the same time want something life affirming I think this release should do you good.
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