It’s fair to say that Sophie Coran has been on quite a journey. Born in Philadelphia she asked her mom for her first “pi-na-no” aged two so that she could start playing and writing her own music. She went on to graduate from the Manhattan School of Music in 2012 with a degree in musical composition. After spending a year in Copenhagen studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, she then travelled around Europe for nine months writing and performing before finally settling in London.
The result of all of that globe-trotting and general life experience as well as a fantastic range of influences and inspirations is this record; her debut Better.
If you’re looking for upbeat dance tunes then look away now because this one isn’t for you. From front to back Better is brooding, elegant and deeply personal. The success of some records is built on riffs, rhythms and killer choruses; this one is built on a human touch and straight from the heart song writing.
Like much of the EP opening track Tell Me is caressed along by a slow and gentle piano melody with the odd vocal harmony thrown in for good measure. The song’s stripped back nature puts the emphasis on the vocal which is fantastic and the song writing which also more than stands up.
I mean who hasn’t sat and wondered where a relationship/potential relationship might go? It’s this relatable touch and human feel which makes this EP work as well as it does.
The title Out Of Focus sums up the next track ridiculously well. The song is slow, brooding and almost dreamlike. It feels like you’re looking through Coran’s mind to a backdrop of gentle tinkling piano riffs and sparse drums. For those of you keeping score and following the story, it seems that that relationship hasn’t worked out.
So out of focus, hoping is hopeless.
Penultimate track One-Way Ticket is for my money the best track on the record. It feels like all of those musical influences which range from Joni Mitchell to the jazz and soul of yesteryear click into place and melt beautifully in with her own natural talent. All of the tracks on the EP are great; don’t get me wrong, but it feels like Coran is really at her best here. Her own classical background shines through on the intro, while the chorus and middle section with its fleeting saxophone makes you feel like you should be sitting in a dark and smoky blues or jazz club from way back in the day. In keeping with the EP’s overall narrative, here Coran is finding herself again and going back to basics after that earlier lost love.
The EP is rounded out by its title track Better and it’s another clever little song as Coran pens a letter to herself. Not only is this is a cool idea in itself, it also serves to tie up the record as a whole and almost complete the story. Once again the focus is really on the vocal and the lyrics as apart from a slow piano melody there isn’t a great deal going on.
If you are a fan of quality song writing, great vocals and piano led ballads then this is the EP is for you. I know it’s deliberate but my only slight criticism is that all four of the songs are slow songs. I know I’m contradicting myself a bit there because those ballads are brilliant and what make this EP great, but a change in tempo here and there would give those ballads even more of an impact.
That being said Coran is a young artist finding her way and this is of course her debut EP so everything needs to be put into context.
The main thing that I’m going to take away from Better is that in terms of song writing and being able to put together a story and craft a song Coran is supremely talented. And as regular readers know I’m a harsh critic so I don’t say that lightly. I’m definitely going to be keeping tabs on her progress that’s for sure.
Better is a beautifully elegant display of great song writing and back to basics production. But most of all Better is human and relatable. It’s straight from the heart and aimed straight at yours; a sumptuous debut.
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