El Mar’s “The Road EP” consists of five ethereal, melody-driven songs fronted by singer/songwriter Joey Primero. The songs are beautifully produced, well performed, and evocative of surprising influences.
By “surprising influences,” I mean a good deal more classic rock than one would expect. Track 4 “Dance For the Dead” begins with a pulse-raising “Good Times Bad Times” beat, and the clever use of space was inspiringly original. Even Queen, and for that matter late Queen, made brief appearances in this album’s influences; the chorus of the final track “The Road” begins exactly the same way as “Those Are the Days of Our Lives,” but the cheesy pop of Queen’s (albeit amazing) hit is absent from El Mar’s (possibly accidental) tip of the hat.
This album falls short only in its lyrical content. Primero’s lyrics are at best trite and at worst puerile and embarrassing, notably in track #3 “Strangers in the Dark.” Primero’s metaphors are boring and her use of internal rhyme is unimaginative: “I am the moon/ I am the stars/ I am every broken heart/ I was the one/ I was the muse/ I am every ticking bomb/ I am everything you want/ so many places/ so many places/ but you can’t even compare…”
That being said, this album is creatively and effectively arranged; while definitely not, as the band’s Soundcloud page says, “folk” or “indie,” (what the fuck kind of indie folk are these guys listening to), the album boasts truly original instrumentation at a time when no fucking band can say that about themselves. The vocals are precisely performed yet beautifully emotional; the keyboards are interesting and effectively haunting, the vocal harmonies are accurately recorded without losing their ambience, and the five songs that make up this record are different enough from each other that I never lost focus or got bored while listening. Classic rock, country, EDM, pop, and electronica make appearances throughout the album, and I was extremely impressed by the musical, rhythmic and structural diversity Primero displays in her songwriting.
More original lyrics would render this album as close to perfect as I could imagine. Musically and in terms of production, it is flawless; original and lovingly crafted, with stimulating chord changes and innovative regurgitation of classic influences. The innocuousness of the lyrics detracts from the album’s effectiveness and ability to inspire emotion.
On El Mar’s next album I’d be fascinated to see an exploration of lyrical originality and poignancy. If Primero can accomplish that, I’d be very surprised to see her absent from the charts. She can sing, record, and play like a motherfucker. I just want to see her write like one.
1. Favorite Songs
3. Strangers In The Dark
4. Dance For The Dead
5. The Road