Many people say the quality of all music has declined over the years, and if they came upon this realization only by listening to mainstream outlets, they’d be absolutely right. Had they peered into the vast, innovative world of independent music, they’d know this is certainly not true. Especially when you encounter artists such as Shayne Cook, a Brisbane-bred, Melbourne-based singer-songwriter who recently released his debut album, entitled ‘Epiphonetics’.
Just to be able to put together an album like ‘Epiphonetics’ is an impressive feat. The production is spectacular, between the organic and the synthetic elements. The lyrics introspective and exceptional. The songs are mellifluous and graceful. Shayne Cook’s voice and range is both nuanced and powerful, as narrates his stories with vivid imagery.
‘Epiphonetics’ is a very personal and sometimes, which doesn’t overstay its welcome or try to over impress with unnecessary gimmickry. It’s a lush and layered recording that continues to grow on the listener, spin after spin. It brings great albums back to what they used to be like, with deeply pondered concepts and a cohesive sound. This album will captivate your attention.
The album opens with the piano-driven ‘Stawell Gift’, which immediately immerses you into Shayne Cook’s world. It is an ode to Cook’s father, describing his history of being abandoned at an orphanage and eventual adoption. The song also features pianist Phil Turcio, producer Simon Moro on keys, and Josh Barber on drums.
‘Shouldn’t War’ showcases the marvel of Cook’s vocal nuancing, as well as his excelling range. Here he expresses the contrasting emotions experienced as he deciphers a sexual assault suffered by someone dear to him. Cook’s pensiveness is reflective, his sadness informed, his anger unrestrained, in a situation of incapacitation.
‘Blood’ is a love song, not so much aimed at someone, but at the concept of love itself, as Cook dives deeply into its unexplained workings and drastic consequences on the human psyche. The song features Josh Barber on drums, Chris Bekker on Bass, and orchestral composition from Tilman Robinson. It is a fine example how Cook can connect so soundly with his audience.
‘Matters of the Hear’ sticks to the love theme, as it looks at the differences between reason and the irrational. The everlasting battle between the head and the heart. The song starts gently, but Cook steadily revs his vocal engine, shooting up the intensity, allowing him to achieve his natural higher register. The City of Prague Symphony Orchestra for supplies string elements here.
Shayne Cook has the most incredible range, handling it all with such ease and fluidity on the poignantly mesmerizing ‘Disaster Yet’. But full praise has to go to Simon Moro for capturing it so incredibly well, especially the up close and personal sections. All-consuming love comes to the fore on the gentle guitar jangle of ‘Restless Love’. Orchestral composition by Tilman Robinson, played by the City of Prague Symphony Orchestra are subtle, but key elements here.
‘City Fire Time’ is a lusciously layered composition, with rich harmonies and a resonant string arrangement. In this song Cook examines the ineffectiveness of waiting for the right time to do anything. “Turns out there is no such thing as the right time and you can spend all your time waiting for the right time,” explained Cook, drawing from his own personal life experiences.
‘Back To Love’ started out as a guitar-based folk song, and then went through diverse mutations to finally become a dark and rhythmic, bass driven track, inspired by Chris Bekker. The album’s closing song ‘Ritual’, is meant to present the simple rituals of life – the seemingly banal things we love doing, and which inevitably leave us with moments to cherish. In fact, the immediacy of the theme and emotion delivered in this track alone, would be the basis for an outstanding album.
My impression is that, this album was born from a desire to love, to understand, and to share. To ultimately create something infinitely affecting, impacting and precious. Listening to ‘Epiphonetics’, from start to finish is an extremely rewarding experience.