The 'Early Days' EP by CroissantReview
I've commented often enough of late on the prevailing wisdom of our days in which discerning artists write great songs & then not only share them in digestible collations of EP size but trail said EP by releasing all but one track as singles so each gets its place in the limelight but there remains an incentive to still acquire the parent set.
However, Croissant is gearing up to release his debut EP ‘Early Days' on the 18th of this month (on Bodacious Records) and every individual song has already been released: and indeed reviewed by "Hot Music Live". You might therefore choose to view it as a compilation record for recording the first releases of his career: hence perhaps the title.
Except it's not all of his work to date: his 2022 "Winter Days" single (which can also be found on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Nine') is not on there. It's also more than just a picture of his professional work. What I had no idea about while writing about any of the component tracks ("Shadow, Honey", "One Minute Away", "I Don't Wanna Be Like Them", "Next October" "I Understand" and "Smile More (On the Dancefloor)" ) on an individual basis was that there was a conceptual structure foreseen from the outset by Ethan Heaselden and that these songs combine to form an autobiographical arc and indeed only the first chapter of that. I apologise to you for missing that. Mind you, their respective release sequence doesn't match their place in the narrative which confuses the story a little. You (and I) need to reassemble it with the help of the EP.
It's tricky reviewing music that I've already written about, but thankfully that still leaves the issues surrounding the whole which are now clearer to see. Especially after Ethan has pointed them out to me.
Starting with the more obvious, it's good to see so many contributions from other great local musicians we also applaud in these pages: Ian Todd mixed half of them at Turtle Leaf Studios and John Connearn plays guitar on "Smile More (On the Dancefloor)". His other collaborators on the various tracks include Ross Van Der Walle (guitar), Rose Allnutt (backing vocals), Gracie Flack (backing vocals and vocal direction), Libby England (backing vocals), Keren Bridgeman (backing vocals) Mike Lawetto (mastering), Luke Rigden and Philip Marsden (mixing and mastering).
Diving into the depths, and these are emotional as well as musical, one quickly gets immersed in some complex as well as profound experiences as Ethan leads us through his own insecurities and we can observe as he challenges these (to some extent: this is a tale of partial & not complete metamorphosis) in often painful honesty.
At the same time, he does not thrust his deepest feelings unbidden into our faces (which gives me the excuse for picking up on some but certainly not all of this before) and he readily admits that several songs can be detached by the listener from the arc & enjoyed at different levels: though you'd be missing out were you to make such choices. I think Ethan is well aware that self-delusion is part of the makeup of us all.
If you select the harder road through ‘Early Days' then you have to traverse Seasonal Affective Disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, selfishness, drinking to cope, isolation, low self-esteem, failures of self-love, alienation etc and these are not easy subjects to process, not least because Ethan writes in a way which shows that he knows that he is not the only one to experience them but that through talking/singing about them, shared recognition leads to empathy and a sense that we are not alone and maybe helping others could build a mutually supportive community. Without this, the EP would lean towards the self-absorbed and not engage emotionally with any potential listeners.
"I Don't Wanna Be Like Them" very clearly delineates his unwillingness to adopt an identity imposed upon him yet there is a thread of yearning to find a likeminded community which he can be a part of and by "Smile More (On the Dancefloor)", he's closer to that than he was where we came in.
The lyrical cues however are not alone & although arguably easier to read, there is a deliberate musical progression from a "cacophony of voices..clashing & painful" on "Shadow, Honey" towards more mellifluous sounds expressing "ecstasy and innocence.. a purity and longing to live in that dream" and finally "..the uncontaminated, unadulterated expression of love and freedom".
‘Early Days' is thus a far more layered & inspiring work encountered as a whole suite than I perceived when examining its constituent parts.
As noted above, I agree with artists who release their music each track at a time. Cynics might suggest that in modern society reduced attention spans equate to consumers not being as able to process albums' worth of songs at once, to the detriment of the artist whose skill crafted them. There may be some truth in this, but I think it has always been thus: many albums by great artists could contain tracks which if not "filler" at any rate received less airplay and less fan attention. This approach works well against that tendency.
On the other hand, Ethan tells us that "I love stories and storytelling. I love that feeling of ending a chapter desperate to know what happens next. Or that feeling when you need to wait until next weeks' episode or comic issue to be released so you can finally find out what happens next." So maybe that itself justifies how he's chosen to share these songs with us.
It sounds like there are more chapters to come & I look forwards to hearing them, especially now I have a heightened awareness of his mission & method.