It’s been a long wait for some substantial new material from mercurial singer-songwriter Sam Wickens after the critically acclaimed release of his debut album “All I’ve Seen” in June 2019.
Wickens has made no secret of the reasons for the lack of output since and has spoken openly and very honestly about his past mental health issues and his road to recovery; he is as honest about his own experiences as he is in his recordings and his live performances.
Not for the first time, Wickens serves up something different and unexpected – you simply cannot find fault in his desire to do things differently and try to push the boundaries of his music. With Watson, it could be argued that he is taking a significant step away from the image and sound of the traditional singer/songwriter that many people will know him for.
Track-wise, Sunday Smile Pt 1 serves as a short, punchy introduction to the EP and is gone before you realise it. Watson Pt 2 sums up the themes on show; loss and recovery; struggle and heartache and these are all re-visited in different guises on both Murky Waters and the very aptly named This War of Mine.
Discordant electronic sounds and unusual, distinctive drum rhythms are to the fore on most of the tracks and Wickens’ voice is more muted and melancholic that on previous releases. Each track is mixed to perfection, balancing rhythm and melody, pushing the vocal forward where it is needed but backing off it when it isn’t. Strings come and go; keyboards drift in and out. The overall effect lends the whole EP a certain dream-like quality.
The final track is the latest single release, Strange.24. and it may be the stand-out track from the EP. It is certainly the only track where Wickens’ delicately picked acoustic guitar takes centre stage, accompanied by deeply textured backing vocals and electronica. The track lifts and rises before fading out just when you least expect it.
It would be tempting to view this EP as some form of exercise in catharsis and emotional or psychological release; it could be viewed as the next chapter in Sam Wickens’ musical progression; whatever way you chose to look at it, it is a complex and intriguing piece of work from one of Ireland’s most interesting and talented musicians. As with previous releases, Watson will leave you wanting to see what Sam Wickens will do next.