Chartreuse’s debut EP deserves more recognition, here’s why…
Recently at WFM we created a list of 20 EP’s from 2019 you should listen to. While making the list we revisited some of our favourites from 2019 and I rediscovered my love for the debut EP from Chartreuse. I was mortified we never covered it! So this is me telling all of you why you should listen to the EP, while trying to do it justice with words.
Chartreuse are one of the finest bands in Birmingham at the moment, going about their business very quietly and in a modest manner. Their music is soft, methodical and expressive in a subtle way, meaning their gigs aren’t rave infused or complete chaos. They’re simply a joy to watch like as they deliver wonder on stage.
Prior to the EP release, the band released three of the songs as singles but that doesn’t lessen the impact of the extended play, because together they compliment each other so well. So lets dive into it.
‘Three Days’ kicks the EP off. This was the first of the tracks to be released as a single. If you’ve never heard the band before, this is a perfect intro giving you a guide for what you’re in for. We’re greeted with a simple guitar build just before the tender words; “I’ve gotta wait three days” lay across the track. The song contains certain themes which are threaded throughout the EP, as the band blend dark-pop, jazz and ambient sounds creating this smooth mature output on every track.
Chartreuse refuse to rush, they let the song breathe. Giving you time to digest and really feel everything their giving you. They do this with every song, giving it room to grow so they can fully explore and get the most from it.
By the time ‘Midnight Oil’ hits, you should know whether or not Chartreuse are for you or not. ‘Midnight Oil’ still maintains this slow and methodical pace, however it’s a more upbeat affair. The mixed vocals compliment each other so well, much like Romy and Oliver on The XX records. Which brings me onto the vocals that are so well delivered across the EP. Stripped back subtle instrumentals tend not to work if you have weak vocals, but here you have two really strong performers which never drop their quality. Also I love the lyric; “Coffeee tastes better made somebody you share a bed with”, so simple and beautiful.
While listening you’re also treated to masterful breakdowns, which are intentional and once again well thought out. Sometimes bands throw a breakdown because it’s the logical thing to do and it’s often simplistic and not really thought of. In Chartreuse’s case this is probably the most integral part of the song and you hear that in the first three tracks, being most prominent in ‘Midnight Oil’.
Woman, I’m Crazy.
We then come to my favourite track on the EP, they’re all so good but this one just takes it. Piano driven, we open with distant vocals from Harriet giving off a very dark and haunting manner. We also have the guitar sliding in the background lightly embellishing the piano without taking over the element. The chorus is light and memorable as the words; “ I’m amazed, I’m amazing , I’m a friend, I’m a woman, I’m crazy“, will forever be ingrained. After the chorus we’re hit with this fuzzy guitar, which re-imagines the ‘crazy’ idea as sound and drives the point home with just enough guitar.
That’s one of the things I enjoy so much about Chartreuse, they’re not scared to leave it minimal in some places. They know not to throw everything including the kitchen sink at it. Pure moderation, and it gives this effective minimalist sound we can all appreciate.
Finally we have ‘Boat’ to finish it off which is the shortest song of them all at 3:42. This is by far the most stripped back as for the bulk of it, it’s just two synchronised vocals and a mulling piano. Such a good closer for an EP like this as there’s a lot of intense moments in those three songs and this just releases all of that pressure and finishes without you knowing.
EP’s are often only 4-6 songs long, and it’s an opportunity for a band to create something which gives someone a full picture of them once they’re finished listening. Chartreuse managed to do that, they captured what they’re about in just four songs with a clear direction and sound embodied in the middle of it. Opposed to jumping around and trying something completely different on every track, they had a clear focus and goal for this, and it shows.
If this all ever Chartreuse did (which it won’t be), they could finish as a band knowing they had a piece of work to be incredibly proud of, which I know will sound just as contemporary years from now. I hope this review has opened you eyes and ears to a new band you can enjoy and support, stick around for their journey and what they’re going to create. But today, lets just enjoy this EP for what it is, a perfect piece of work.