Saturday, August 27, 2022

Stephen Caulfield Navigates the Pangs of Love in EP 'Beacon Hill'

Alternative rock singer, songwriter, musician, and producer Stephen Caulfield goes for the heartstrings in his new EP 'Beacon Hill'

Coming off his soon-to-be-released album, 'Signal Fire', it's a story of longing, persistence, and regret.

Caulfield uses a satisfyingly layered tapestry of symbolic lyricism, instrumentation, and melody. From the electric guitar to synthesisers, drums and the acoustic piano, one can expect quite a range of sounds. 

The song 'Beacon Hill', which lends itself in three different versions throughout the four-song EP, is where the magic begins. We're confronted with a pair of lovers at war; a war immersed in darkness. It's not each other they're fighting, no. In fact, they're protecting one another as best as they can. He's trying to let her know he's in distress, so he reveals his intention of "lighting up a signal fire tonight". He wants her to do the same, later calling on her to "just raise the light above the highest ground". "Send a signal fire from Beacon Hill", he pleads. There's an epic and gradual layering of instruments accompanying these sentiments, with the intensity increasing as more instruments are added. 

The original version of 'Beacon Hill' is more theatrical. One can almost see this ordeal unfolding in the mind's eye. The acoustic version, as one might imagine, is raw, light, and close to concealing the solemn nature of the lyrics. The instrumental version is ceremonious, sombre, and almost telling of the reminiscence. 

'The Night Came For You' is calming and contemplative, tone and atmosphere-intensive; not rooted in traditional structure and rhythm. Vocals are weaved into harmonies with layer upon layer of intonation and looping. The song is marked by a progression that cascades into a final vocal loop. Repeating phrases are contorted and finally broken down through the act of repetition.

In 'The Night Came For You', the darkness is endearing and enticing. This of course contrasts the message from 'Beacon Hill', after all; love isn't a smooth and straightforward journey. Here, the darkness seems to have taken over, consider the line "passing all the signs before you reach a dead end". The treachery involved in love is acknowledged, and so he chants "with open arms / ignoring all the alarms, after all we went through". 

It's an EP pretty much anyone can appreciate. You get slow rhythms that leave you revisiting your own memories or tapping into his. You get lilts that take you through the depths of desperation to the heights of hope. You get a sense of calm and upliftment, despite the serious themes tackled. 

'Beacon Hill' is a blessing to alternative and soft rock. It truly is a triumph of a tour-de-force.

Gavin Mndawe

@Gavin Mndawe

Image: 'Beacon Hill' Official EP Cover

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