Deaf Havana – 22 EP review

22It’s not uncommon knowledge that I can be very cynical when it comes to a band releasing EPs recently after album, and the nine month gap between Old Souls (Deaf Havana’s third studio album, released last September) and 22 (their most recent EP, released only a few days ago), combined with the overlap of tracks, unsurprisingly aroused suspicion in me. It would be a little too unfair to say this suspicion was correctly held.

The four tracks off the release are a mis-match of sorts, opening with 22, the sixth track off King Lynn six piece’s current album. The song, albeit a little clustered for a mainstream radio, has a stand-alone sense of purpose in a manner that your average, non-avid fan could hear, sing along with, and not be phased by the heavily weighted and desperate optimism in every line. “With Springsteen in my headphones singing mockingly away, oh Brucey baby, I’ve seen better days”, speaks of James (Veck-Giloldi, lead vocals and guitar) battling against the pressure of the world, and referencing how they are now creating music closer to the classic/acoustic rock of his heroes.

Back in September, along with the release of Old Souls, was the release of the band’s documentary-style film, English Hearts, of how they got to where they are today, featuring music previously unheard by the public. One of these featured songs was Drive All Night, second song of this EP. For those who’ve followed the band since their pre-label EPs, such as Evangeline and White Lines, But No Camera, or even since their first major release of Meet Me Halfway, At Least, it’s somewhat of a shock that they could change to produce something so unlike those records. Drive All Night is without a doubt the, well, calmest song they have ever recorded; gone is any self-deprecation, bitterness or complaints, and what is left is a simple yet controlled two minutes and fifty-two seconds of sing-with-friends, open-window, full-volume, acoustic tranquility. I think, for many fans, it’s the song they’ve been waiting to hear; one of contentment.

Of course, one positive song doesn’t make a complete change, and Whiskey, third track off the EP, returns to the melancholic outlook. This is the only completely original song off the release, too, and possibly hints what’s next for the band. “Life stopped answering my calls and I’m getting friendlier with death. He said he’d trade me a bottle for what little soul I have left, and I said yes. How else am I gonna spend my time?” after reference to “three hundred day weekends” and contemplating how life would have turned out if he had been a teacher, speak of how between work with the band, loneliness or other personal issues leave him turning to alcohol. The soft vocals coat simple acoustic instrumental, and wavering passion on the more-belted-out notes show that James’s voice is much more capable that Old Souls let on.

After Old Souls was released, the band completed a small acoustic tour of HMVs and FOPPs across the country as promotion. On this tour, James mentioned that Kings Road Ghosts (named after Kings Lynn Road in Hunstanton, James’s hometown) was originally an acoustic track, but was built up to eb a full band track as it sounded too much like Hunstanton Pier, off Fools And Worthless Liars (their 2011 release). Listening to the acoustic version of Kings Road Ghosts, it’s understandable how the mistake could have been made, and adds a note of familiarity to the close of the EP.

Although there is technically only one completely original track off the release, the other three do add a nice touch, and for £1.79 off iTunes it’s hardly a rip off; definitely a release aimed at long-standing fans of the band though, as although the acoustic edge might hint at where Deaf Havana are aiming for, it is almost unrecognisable as theirs from their previous work.

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