Last summer, Bad Christian released a compilation album focused on electronic artists. Like most compilations, it proved to be a mixed bag – however, it was specifically aimed at getting exposure to a number of lesser-known artists.
Summer Sleep happened to be Black Pages’ submission to the compilation and is also the first track off his 2015 EP Where It Gets You. Black Pages, the solo project of James McCurley of Vertica, is an ambitious singer-songwriter experience that is fairly unique – it’s neither folky nor relies too much on backing tracks. The songs feel full, though often only featuring guitar, piano, and vocals at most. Nonetheless, this EP will leave you wondering why Black Pages has only 61 likes on Facebook (at the time of writing this, anyway).
Summer Sleep starts the EP off with sound bouncing between the left and right speakers as McCurley’s soft vocals enter the picture. This is the most “electronic” song, though it’s mostly due to one synthesizer. There’s a memory instrumental melody, strong-yet-not-overbearing drums, and poetic lyrics.
Transfixed is a faster song that relies more on a traditional piano. “Are you transfixed, scared if you take the chance you’ll find something worth the risk?”, McCurley sings during the chorus. Being obstacles to ourselves certainly isn’t a popular topic, but the delivery here is executed well.
Although Habit is the third song on the EP, it has everything I’ve come to expect from a powerful finale. Mostly guitar-based, it builds to an expansive end with drums and piano. It’s my personal favorite.
The EP closes with Why so Far Away?, the barest of the songs yet. “You’re a storm that shakes the coastline, as your lightning hits my skin,” the song opens, with no instrumentals underneath whatsoever. However, piano and cello soon enter to provide an underlying foundation. It even sounds like the vocals have been overdubbed through the use of a vocoder, which is certainly an interesting twist.
Overall, the EP is concise proof that sometimes less is more. McCurley has crafted a solid first solo release. Each song is distinct in itself, so I don’t have much critique on that end. However, I am interested to see where he goes from here.