The closing moments of a relationship are territory much visited in song: detail, heartbreak, recrimination and longing providing stimulus for legions of songwriters. With originality often proving the deciding factor between unappealing self-indulgence and candid affinity, it is with conspicuous infrequency that champions of the latter are unearthed.
Both solo artists in their own right, Peter Lyons and Kerry Leatham joined forces under the auspices of boutique label Tape Club Records. After being signed to the burgeoning label on the strength of her (frankly, heartbreaking) YouTube performances, critically acclaimed Leatham was introduced to Lyons, a prolific producer. Over a period of just a few days, Peter and Kerry wrote and recorded Clothes, Friends and Photos in the latter’s bedroom, a six track musing on the states of breaking and being broken.
EP opener and titular track ‘Clothes, Friends and Photos’ is arguably, the weakest; the repeated melodic phrasing, rather than proving hypnotic, falling a little flat. Undeniably beautiful, the song begs for a sense of movement, be it cyclical or crescendoing, to elevate its crestfallen lament from stock indie-folk to something a little more engaging – a quandary immediately resolved with the delicate harmonics of subsequent track ‘Half Empty’.
From the moment Leatham’s almost inaudible vocals claw through elementary uke-strums, the listener is drawn close, hanging on to the tender stream of consciousness as it meanders, Lyons voice softly swelling to meet the melody. There is a deftness of touch on this track, manifestly lacking on the former, which hints at a vast potential for crafting atypical and arresting arrangements – fortuitously evinced on ‘Oh, No’, a 48 second grievance akin to a 1960′s pop song, before the vocals segue into an uneasy minor.
‘The Shadows’ is a gospel-blues hued folk ballad, banjo and xylophone texturising a beautiful simplistic refrain, Leatham’s insouciant vocals repeating the mesmeric line “all I want is you to shine/and I’ll wait here with you til sunrise”. ‘Knees’ is a magnetic, haunting piano-led track, peppered with elemental beats, Leatham’s distinctive, vocal somnolence and slow vibrato perfectly matching Lyon’s boyish twang, yet it is at the close where this EP resolutely reaches its zenith. ‘Crash and Burn’ effortlessly marries together Lyons and Leatham’s natural, palpable chemistry, their more upbeat vocals seamlessly intertwining over impeccably executed, playful instrumentation.
It is testament to the skill of this pairing that the EP opener seems out of place: in less capable hands, the subsequent tracks could easily have descended into anonymity, the simplistic songwriting potentially falling far short of its mark. However, Leatham and Lyons are masters of their collective heartbreak, their knack for transforming the commonplace into the extraordinary hinting at great things to come.