A few months ago, I stood transfixed in the middle of a packed nightclub, watching as a lone man channelled his inner Strictly Come Dancing with some wonderfully intricate routines. I didn’t know it then, but that man was Myles Manley – and now his debut self titled studio EP, has turned out to be as impressive as his late-night choreography.
It’s not often that you come across a record which directly addresses guilt-free adultery, Judeo-Christianity and a desire to “take Bob Dylan down” (amongst other equally pertinent issues), but then again, this Sligo native doesn’t seem the type to stick to convention. While his music is sweet, laidback and melodic, his voice – one of the love/hate variety – stands out, and his lyrics tend to be surprisingly dark, sometimes disconcerting in their honesty. All together, he’s produced seven compelling songs which manage to be both strangely beautiful and uncomfortable at the same time.
Opening proceedings, Easy To Love defines Manley’s sound: warm, intimate, grounded in gentle rhythms and melodies but never lacking in surprise. Guitars and fiddle, underpinned by a strong bassline, play easily around one another before taking an unexpectedly striking tone towards the end. Singing “easy to love, just like a wife”, he then launches into the clearly contradictory I Fuck Your Wife. Strong and guitar-driven with a nice dose of choral backing for good measure, it’s deceptively sweet for such a smug, two-fingers kind of message.
Later on, You’re Young Enough To Come Home and Dream Minus One add touches of vulnerability to the record, when their restrained but expressive strings and barely-there backing come together with the somewhat dejected lyrics (“anyone at all can dream something up, you live out that dream and then you wake up”). They strike a fine balance, emotional and heartfelt without overstepping the depressive boundaries.
Music For White People brings back the attitude, ranting against politics, the “rat race”, and “appalling” radio songs. The tune is kept simple but catchy, while the beat is clear and determined: it’s a pop song, but not necessarily as you know it. Stretched Out Thin is equally confident, despite the desperation lying behind the bare, open lyrics. Switching from a powerful intro to a stripped-back bassline and back again, as well as threatening a 70-year-old folk hero, it’s one of the strongest offerings on the EP.
Although the distinct vocals may leave some cold, Music For White People is a record worthy of your time and attention: Myles Manley – light-footed musician and Bob Dylan’s new enemy – has delivered a solid and very personal debut.
If you fancy taking a listen then you can check out this EP [here]