Saltwater Sun – ‘The Great Deceiver’ | EP Review

Reading quintet Saltwater Sun return with second EP, ‘The Great Deceiver’

Following on from 2016 EP ‘Flawed’ and a smattering of singles in the interim period.  ‘The Great Deceiver’ is the latest offering from the pop-rock outfit.

Drenched in catchy hooks, bright, airy riffs and inspired production, the three tracks are indicative of a band growing into and developing the sound heard in their previous releases. Creating one the most exciting releases of 2019 so far.

Trying.

Saltwater Sun’s previous work has been focused on the Kate Bush-esque vocals of lead singer Jennifer Stearnes, and much of this EP is in a similar vein. However, opening track ‘Trying’ is a great example of how the band have developed their sound in this new release.

Stearnes’ vocals are still the focal point, but the rest of the band is given more room to breath and express themselves. This is
aided by some stellar production. ‘Trying’ swings from bright, sun drenched guitar hooks in the chorus to chunky, bass-heavy riffs in the pre-chorus. Falling back to a sweeping, laconic instrumentation in the verses without ever feeling discordant or like any aspect is stepping on the toes of any other.

The effect of all of this is a song that is deceptively complex. Getting out of its own way to produce a great spring/summer song, and a fantastic opener.

The Great Deceiver.

With a calmer opening than ‘Trying’, the intro to the title track belies an energetic summer hit, and the strongest track on the EP.

Sharing the same focus on lead vocals as ‘Trying’, Stearnes shows her range with swaggering pop-rock vocal hooks. This is complemented by the same exciting, creative production.

Sticking to a more traditional structure, the song builds and builds to a stunning final chorus. With more and more vocal tracks and effects added as the song goes on, underpinned by a persistent and pleasingly off-kilter bedrock from the drum and bass, this is sure to become a live favourite in the bands future.

Blood.

The only song from the EP to be released as a single so far, the synth-tinged, almost Prince-esque, intro of ‘Blood’ marks a departure from the rest of the album. Written on the 10th anniversary of the passing of Jennifer Stearnes’ father, the song tackles topics like grief, family & love. From a production and instrumentation viewpoint, much of ‘Blood’ differs from the rest of the album, with melancholic vocals punctuated by sparse, keening guitar.

However, this is, fundamentally, a song about hope. With lyrics like‘Stand my ground for the heartbroken, timid and weak’ sitting in anthemic, cathartic choruses, and the final spectacular kick-in before the finale switching up the instrumentation with busy, more frantic playing, it illustrates a hopeful anxiousness to fight on. The song ends on a hard cut, leaving you eager for what comes next, a fitting end to both the song and the EP.

Overall

Having settled into the sunny, intelligent, multi-layered sound that permeates the EP as a whole, Saltwater Sun takes the time in this release to spread their wings, be it with the more melancholy tone of ‘Blood’ or sheer variety of ‘Trying’. The production stands as a high point throughout the EP. Complementing the stunning vocals and solid, creative instrumentation from the rest of the band.

While the drum track could sometimes afford to be punched up a bit, the fuzzy effect on much of the vocals could be toned back a little. Also 3 songs is a very lean offering, when viewed in its entirety, this EP feels like a prelude to what could come next from the band.

They clearly have so many ideas, evident from how sonically dense all three tracks are, but that’s not to say the songs lack a clear identity. You’ll be lucky to get the ear-worm chorus of ‘The Great Deceiver’ out of your head and the balance of melancholy and hope in ‘Blood’ is inspired, but all the ideas would benefit hugely from the space that a full length album would allow. But, it’s hardly a bad thing when the biggest complaint you have with a release is that there isn’t more of it!

Along with their recent show in Southampton, this EP marks Saltwater Sun as one’s to watch in 2019. With multiple dates in Liverpool, London and Brighton over the summer, be sure to find the time to check out one of the most exciting upcoming bands in the UK right now.

Words by Rob Collingridge

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