For me The Epstein have always epitomized the best of summer times – long sunny evenings at Truck – Olly Wills’ velvety vocals never failing to rouse a crowd with the old favorites of ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Leave Your Light On’. And so I approached this EP with great excitement alongside news of Truck’s first confirmed artists…maybe summer was arriving early this year?
However I Held You Once instead really does capture the mood of its creation– that is, the band’s cosy evenings by the fire in a village just outside Oxfordshire with countless cups of tea accompanying their song-writing. And I could pay it no higher compliment. The love and care with which this EP has been conceived and recorded is clear throughout all three tracks which together form a perfectly crafted follow-up to the band’s acclaimed debut album Last of The Charaguistas. The band admit that they took their time with this EP, recorded over 14 months, aiming to move on from the live-performance sound of their first releases, and the results are highly successful, captivating and enchanting.
The EP’s title track ‘I Held You Once’ encapsulates The Epstein’s perfect blend of romance and heartbreak – the lyrics are simple enough to feel honest but the soaring refrain “I held you once/ It was the longest night of my life” empowers the track with a striking sentiment that matches Wills’ impressive vocals. Starting with a beautifully gentle single vocal harmony, the song builds to the band’s characteristic blend of acoustic and electric riffs that will surely continue to enthral crowds over the summer. ‘Another Band Has Gone’ continues in the same vein but here the echoing vocals fantastically dominate the track proving The Epstein’s accomplished craftsmanship and song-writing. The addition of piano and glockenspiel are very welcome indeed and the song has a seductive haunting quality.
The EP’s highlight is without doubt the spine-tingling ‘Ring On Her Finger’. With touching lyrics layering image upon image of loneliness contrasted with heads “full of ideas and unmade plans” this song sums up the stunning achievement of this EP. Resisting the temptation of a foot-stamping climax that would ruin the magical elegance of the song, the use of piano and a brass arrangement are fantastically handled to compliment and enrich the song as opposed to overpowering it. In fact, here and throughout the EP, the recording is so considered and executed with such subtlety towards every component of the tracks – it was definitely 14 months well spent.
I’m generally not one for being over-enthusiastic but this EP is really, really great. With a full length album released later this year, there is plenty to look forward to from The Epstein including a stream of upcoming shows and, with festival dates appearing day by day, hopefully more of those perfect long summer evenings.