Saturday, August 14, 2021

George O’Hanlon lays it bare in debut EP ‘The Storm’

A relatively up and coming voice in UK indie music, 21-year-old George O’Hanlon’s first EP is a striking and thoroughly entertaining release. With vocal performances on each song that are nothing short of fantastic and lyrical content that manages to narrate the events and ideas that come with growing up in such a poetic way, O’Hanlon masterfully combines these elements to create an incredibly moving piece of art that skilfully dances the fine line between comforting and heart wrenching. 

While ‘The Storm’ only consists of four songs clocking in at just over fifteen minutes, it’s the perfect length to express all the feelings it has in a succinct, but by no means rushed or condensed, manner. It’s a project that by its end just begs to be re-played and it’s a request that one just can’t help but oblige. 

The opening track and coincidentally also the title track, ‘The Storm’ is one that at a first glance could be dismissed as just another emotional acoustic ballad but to write it off as just that would be an injustice. The way it lays bare the struggle of making the most of the time we have in the face of adversity feels unique in comparison to the more simple analysis of relationships that one might have come to expect from the singer-songwriter genre. O’Hanlon sings “We’ve only got until we don’t / Hold me in anger” while backed by a beautiful acoustic instrumental that swells and breaks into a far more intense instrumental break that is gone almost as quickly as it came. 

The second track, ‘The Weight’ is a one-part dreamy, one part sorrowful love letter to O’Hanlon’s ‘Darling’. The lyrics tell the tale of someone who is truly enamoured, someone who knows that they’re “onto something with you” and is “taken by the way that you look”. Despite these sentiments being so clearly expressed, there's also a regretful self-awareness that emerges as O’Hanlon waxes poetically about how he realises his faults but is trying his best to do what he can. 

He sings in the chorus “Now I'm not holding your hand / No, I'm not there when I say that I am / But I'm always pulling the weight off your shoulders”. Despite the sense of melancholy that runs throughout the song, it resolves with an undeniably hopeful finish. 

The penultimate track, ‘This Town’ is arguably the best example of O'Hanlon's skill at crafting a narrative in his music. At first, only accompanied by subtle guitars, he retells a story of how “the lights went out across my street / we were walking back, out of it/ and all our thoughts were hanging in the air”. It is relatable yet still poetic. 

In an interview with TotalNtertainment, he explained how “‘This Town’ was written about growing up in a certain kind of place and when it feels like there's a certain path laid out for you and all you want to do is go the other way.” Much like ‘The Storm’, ‘This Town’ swells sonically as the song builds and builds towards its emotional peak, as guitar lick accompanies the line “in the warmth of this town that is slowly burning down” before it breaks into a punchy and hard-hitting sprint finish of an end. 

On 'Explanations', the fourth and final track, O’Hanlon once again strikes that balance between the positive and negative in his songwriting, creating something that at points is lyrically despondent but instrumentally triumphant. Every element feels like it belongs, with a backing that is grand and layered and sweeping but a vocal performance that has a dejected quality like it knows that this is the end of the line. “Say that you do / that you really care / do you really care,” he sings, hoping for a response but sadly finding none. It is a line that truly encapsulates the entire mood of this closing piece and one that resonates with a lot of the questions that the album asks and tries to find ‘explanations’ for, questions about growing up, moving on and what path should you be on if any. It’s a very fitting capstone for an EP such as this one. 

George has set himself a high bar with this first EP, with such brilliant vocals, fitting and emotive instrumentals and songwriting that is elegiac yet undeniably cathartic. The talent he has is clear to see, and I, for one, am so excited to see what he produces next. 

Morgan Springer 

Image: The Storm Official Single Cover (PRESS)

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