by Michael Cameron.
This might be one of the best voices you’ll ever hear; Lewis Capaldi has arrived on the world stage, and is here to stay. Capaldi’s debut EP, Bloom, is the perfect set up for a successful career in the singer/songwriter world. The songs are solid, aided and produced by Malay, an LA producer who has worked with the likes of John Mayer, Frank Ocean, Lorde, Alicia Keys and Jamie Foxx to name a few. So with some impressive pop pedigree poured into the mix, and having recently supported Rag ‘n’ Bone Man on his European tour, and having been recently named one of Vevo Dscvr’s artists to watch for 2018, Lewis can continue to build on these foundations with great optimism.
Recognisably unique enough to attract the likes of Malay, Capaldi’s voice is the driving factor in this EP, the rest of the instrumentation is understated, tasteful, and designed to help showcase the vocal tracks in the recordings. The power of his vocal chords reminds me of a huge cannon: The fuse is lit with soft, velvety phrases in the lower register, then, as it rises in volume we can hear an amazing natural distortion in the throat which makes for a magnificient explosion of sound.
‘Fade’ – The opening track, an aching request for a lover to stay close, “don’t fade away”, is full of all of the language you’d expect from this kind of strained-romantic-relationship style love song. Rhythmically flowing lyrics, a sincere tone and accompanying piano tie the song together well, this will form the overarching feel and sound of the EP. It was a good choice to begin soft, allowing the listener to experience initial vulnerability before the inevitable power-chorus. Fragility is perhaps the most prevalent theme in ‘Fade’ which expresses itself with lines like, “we’re only a heart attack away from falling in love,” and “I’d end up so caught up in need of your demons.”
Track two is ‘Bruises’- The first single to be released since Lewis moved to London, and the song that transformed his career from a local level to a national and even international scale. The single alone has over 28 million streams on Spotify at the time of writing. A testament to this is how spectacularly well it went down at the first ever TRNSMT Festival in Glasgow this summer (2017). Standing in the crowd I was amazed that almost every person who had turned up to the King Tut’s Stage was singing along to every word. While this may in part allude to the power of the internet and music streaming in the current industry climate, what a song this is. For those who only discovered Capaldi recently, ‘Bruises’ is an adaptation from an earlier song he used to play in clubs and bars from Bathgate to Glasgow, it was always my favourite, and it took a while to convince me that the new direction his music had taken was for the better. Selfishly, I preferred the raw element that Lewis’ live shows possessed in the past, he would thrash his guitar and belt his songs out at the top of his voice. Nonetheless, Capaldi has refined his songwriting craft down south, and the result has not only been a magnificient success for him, but something he can be truly proud of.
Live version of ‘Bruises’ available here.
‘Mercy’ – the third track of the EP is the only song that follows a full backing band set up. This is a welcome change from the other three songs and gives a flavour of his live, accompanied sound. Reminiscient of a common theme I noticed at TRNSMT, ‘Mercy’ is an introspective narrative, fulfilled by simple but colourful vocal melody, measured dynamic shifts upwards leading into choruses and downwards into the verses. An observation of note during the festival was that the backing band of Lewis Capaldi, like those of George Ezra, Rag n Bone man, JP Cooper and others, consisted of a group of musicians in plain black t shirts and black jeans, playing along, but not getting in the way of the singer, unoffensive, and depending on the act wavering between light hearted (Coooper, Ezra) and deeper, soulful Adele-esque style lyrics (Capaldi, Rag n Bone Man). Often the singer addresses personal flaws, and in the case of Capaldi here, begs for ‘Mercy,’ doubtless for his past indiscretions against family, friends, or ex-partners.
Finally, ‘Lost On You’ is a fitting end to a wonderful four track installment. The song is an effective amalgamation of all the previously mentioned musical and lyrical techniques employed by Capaldi to really launch his brand as a sensitive, thoughtful, and romantic songwriter. This is no departure from his earlier work, but instead a welcome presentation of his best material to date. The piano again joins the vocals to weave a heartstring tugging narrative. For example; “I hope you’ll be safe in the arms of another, because I can’t take the weight of your love,” is pretty heavy stuff in the literal sense, but feels comfortable to the listener, and manages to avoid conventional cliche, something that this EP excells at as a whole.
Pop music, whilst still dominated by the solo artist, turns a new chapter as we approach 2018, and Lewis Capaldi has set the tone for us with Bloom. What a year he has in store.