"The Last One" by Euan BlackmanReview
Out on Friday is the latest Euan Blackman single called "The Last One".
It's also the third track from his upcoming second EP ‘Rent Free on My Brain' following both "Burn" and "The Ballad of a Broken Machine" (I'm hopeful that you have read our reviews of those) and as with them was crafted in its entirety by Euan in his home studio & was mastered by Jim Spencer (who has worked with the likes of Johnny Marr, New Order, The Charlatans etc) at Eve Studios.
When artists are kind enough to offer insights into their own music, I usually like to share their words directly with you: in this instance, Euan says of "The Last One" that it ".. started as a simple folky almost James Taylor sounding love song, but when producing the track I chose to use a lot of more electronic textures including Roland drum machines and running acoustic guitars through pedals and effects to get a more interesting sound. I think the track perfectly encapsulates my ‘alt folk for kind folk' vibe. Underneath its story and lyric driven music, but with layers showcasing everything I love about modern music production.."
Having now heard three of the EP tracks, senses of patterns are emerging. Euan is clearly sensitive to the need to balance both diversity across the collection to demonstrate his range, with both his signature style and integrity. Diversity is commendable, but not if it's forced or token.
Thankfully Euan has gone down the road of sticking to what he believes in & trying to do it as well as he can. Thus the prevailing mood will be instantly recognisable to his growing band of fans (who number among them folk artist Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Radio 1's Jack Saunders and as noted previously, Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda). We are very much present in his "introspective and evergreen songs for rainy road trips with wistful gazes…" musical territory which quite understandably he is perfecting as he develops it. Though he's on a train not in a car this time out.
In fact his apparent formula seems rather nicely encapsulated in his own words above: if you starting point is a sort of James Taylor vibe and you then process it in a 2023 technological style then you do get what he's aiming for & it is distinctive.
The wire along which Euan walks though is that in his aim for the "kindness" he seeks to convey, the glacial techno approach can, if overdone, alienate. It is not intrinsically a warm route unless coupled with the right melody, words & vocal delivery. Which seems a challenge he is more than up for. (Check out too his "Kind Folk Club" at https://soundcloud.com/user-999772055/sets/the-kind-folk-club-demos).
This innovative & potentially risky strategy may on the surface appear to be built on contradictory impulses (and he is also an artist who manages to go for a "lo-fi" approach while utilising contemporary technology) yet it elevates Euan as a creative artist: be resolving the apparent dichotomies, he produces music which exists beyond that a more conservative, safer & ultimately cliched approach would have generated. In this context, slipping in unusual vocabulary like "centrifugal" is part of the process of pushing forwards.
The other noticeable dynamic at play here is the tension between the thoughtful lyrics, which have clearly had a lot of time & thought spent on them, and the atmosphere of the whole. The latter doesn't quite overwhelm the former, but the downbeat delivery, verging on whispering, could in less skilled hands get buried beyond immediate listener access. What you get instead seems so terribly personal that you almost feel guilty at possibly eavesdropping on some extremely private thoughts. Pretty much the epitome of a truly intimate song in fact.