Welcome to what feels like instalment three million of ‘let’s write about a talented British female singer/songwriter.’ They are spreading like the plague! A harmonising, melodic and talented plague granted, but you get the picture.
Some Build Castles is the latest EP from Manchester based artist Rebecca Cullen and it’s an EP which demonstrates the level and depth of talent that we have in this country. Cullen lived on a canal boat for two years and this is where she wrote all of the songs on show here as she explains;
“The experience was very freeing, and inspired some deeper thinking and a more relaxed approach to writing”.
The record was produced by Adam Rogers and was released back in June. Here’s the lowdown.
I really like opening track Homegrown, but it’s probably not for the reasons which you’re thinking. The song itself is slow with sweeping strings and a sumptuously elegant vocal. Now as great as all of these things are, I love this track because Cullen swears. In pretty much every other kind of song in the world this isn’t noteworthy but for some reason the world appears unable to swear in ballad. Instead artists seem to over-indulge in flowery metaphors which are so over the top that they actually take away from the feeling of the song. I don’t know about you but when I’m annoyed, hurt, sad etc I swear! So hearing Cullen throw in the add expletive actually gives the song a more human touch and enables the listener to fully buy into and connect with it.
Carry On is a track driven (It’s more caressed than driven but hey) by a wispy vocal and a simple, gentle melody. The drums are really thick and thump just hard enough, everything sounds so warm and rich, this whole record sounds like it’s been coated in maple syrup. I like this style of production a lot. Top marks Mr Rodgers.
The skipping and stuttering drumbeat which gently pulls The Only Water Left along is brilliantly light and gives the track more of an airy feel. The acoustic guitar, strings and piano melodies go together incredibly well and the vocal is beautifully seductive and strangely hypnotic. For a long while this was my favourite track; for me I think that it shows Cullen at her best vocally as well as lyrically.
As we move on to the penultimate track I think this is as good a time as any to bring up what is pretty much the only flaw with this EP. With its slow acoustic intro and equally slow and gentle drums No Conflict is for all intents and purposes another ballad. That in itself is not a problem, in fact there is nothing wrong with the track at all. It’s classic Rebecca Cullen fare.
My problem is the fact that it’s another slow song. (The final track is also a slow one) This means that there isn’t really an up-tempo track on the EP and that makes it feel a little one paced. I know that the idea is to have a slow, melodic, folk influenced record but here’s why I think it’s a problem. If every song is slow it means that when you get to a real emotional ballad it loses some of its impact. Instead of tugging on your heart strings it sounds like just another slow song. It’s the same principle that applies with metal bands. If all you make is ear drum destroying, heavy as hell songs after a while they lose their impact. (Those gentle ballads aren’t on Black Sabbath albums by accident)
This isn’t a huge problem and by no means does it take away from your enjoyment of the EP but I do think that it stops you from enjoying it as much as you could. Throw in even only one quicker song and all of a sudden the ballads can contrast against something and their impact is restored.
Final track Teething is my favourite track on the EP and is a brilliant example of why I rate Cullen so highly. That hypnotic vocal is back and the melody while being simple, laces the track with just the right amount of subtlety. The drums sound great once again and the song as a whole feels like a mix of traditional harmonies and fundamentals and more modern electronica. This is where Cullen really shines, bridging this gap between old and new in effortless style.
As I talked about above Some Build Castles isn’t flawless but that doesn’t stop it from being a very impressive and pretty majestic piece of work. There is no doubt in my mind that Cullen is talented artist it’s just a case of making the most of those talents and giving them the best opportunity to shine. There’s lots of depth, lots of feeling and most importantly lots of human emotion.
Rich and multi-layered Some Build Castles is beautifully put together and well worth a listen.