Friday, October 23, 2020

Tomberlin 'Projections': EP Review

Through her music, Sarah Beth Tomberlin has always found ways to transfer worries and doubt into soulful, and sometimes even humorous, lamentations. Having spent the last year isolating with Busy Phillips and her family, she devoted her time to writing new music and exploring her own sound. The result is ‘Projections’, a short EP that gives listeners a glimpse into her world, and the progression of her sound. Produced by Alex G., Tomberlin flexes her songwriting muscles and reveals more of intricate sound than first heard on ‘At Weddings’.

The EP begins tenderly with ‘Hours’, a yearning song set against an ambling beat and beautifully finger-plucked string melody.

The line ‘Holding Onto Hours’ anchors the song around the theme of wanting to treasure and possess the memories of time spent with a special loved one, which is present in some form across every song on the project. ‘Wasted’ follows, the first single released back in August. ‘Wasted’ offers a more upbeat rendition of the style established in ‘Hours’. The drums are a bit more unconventional, with a compressed quality, and a trembling violin pops up periodically, creating a nervous energy.

‘Floor’ is where the EP begins to gain more personality. The guitars take centre place, and gain more texture compared to other tracks on the EP. The lyrics are poetic in their observation and simplicity, with Tomberlin reaching into her past and pulling something intimate into the present. There is a particularly strong emotional resonance to this song that is felt somewhat less elsewhere - here Tomberlin successfully finds a way to properly build a grand sound around her stories and introspection, crafting a sense of hope out of sombre moments.

‘Sin’ sees Tomberlin explore the struggles of coming to grips with her life and interests in a religious environment that might persecute them, something she dipped into on her debut album, ‘In Weddings’. ‘Sin’ is a confessional song, but told in a triumphantly blunt way. A repeated verse ‘Lay your hands on me, I just wanna be clean’ confronts the duality between religious imagery and acknowledging true feelings. ‘Natural Light’ pushes this further, embracing the influence of Tomberlin’s upbringing by using church choir vocals, but finding the singer transplanting herself into a tale of a lost romance from the past.

‘Projections’ feels like a very personal project. There is something bracingly honest about it, and even if Tomberlin’s sound doesn’t quite expand instrumentally, patience has granted her songwriting much more focus and identity. Her new songs are concerned about time, and the fleeting and precious nature of it, something which feels especially poignant right now. Not only creating an album worthy of the coming Autumn, she has built a bridge to move into a different space on whatever project comes next.

- Huwen Edwards


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