When I was younger, I remember seeing this pint-sized busker play outside the shop I was queueing for. Later, I realised that this anonymous individual was none other than Max Sloan, and it wasn’t long before I became completely hooked on the mellow melodic masterpieces that seemed to flow from Max’s brain. It comes as no surprise then that the announcement of Max’s debut EP ‘Make Me Better’ filled my heart with so much joy. A collaborative effort with Brand New Friend’s Aaron Milligan on production, the EP encapsulates Max’s feelings from the past year about himself and the people around him.
The totally addictive “I Got U” opens this EP and, wow, I was left shocked by the serendipitous sound of it. A haunting atmosphere is created by the constant repeat of a singular note that allows the swaying guitar to manoeuvre around it. Max’s harmonies are slick and performed with such ease, his voice in general is uniquely recognisable and sits firmly at the forefront of the track. This gives listeners the opportunity to take in all that he has to say, a favourite lyric of mine being “and when the winter’s get colder, I got you, I got you.” The drums join subtly adding vigour to a chorus full of oohs and aahs. Max comments that the EP took “a creative and experimental turn” whilst working with Aaron and that is certainly evident here, and I certainly what to hear more of this from Max in the future.
“I’m A Lot To Put Up With”, the EP’s single, presents us with a completely different mood than before, almost as if it is richer in sound. There is something very whole about the somber chords that are used and I’m left in this bittersweet state when I listen to them; I love it but it makes me sad, Max clearly has a great ability to make people feel a lot with his music. The quick and sharp groove of the drum beat along with the odd synthetic note and ending bass line are ear-prickingly satisfying. I also enjoy the concluding change of pace which is unexpected but fits to the rest of the song like pieces in a jigsaw.
The singing in the title track “Make Me Better” takes centre stage once more amongst a muffled strum of guitar and I can’t help but get attached to Max’s poignant lyrics of “how can you make something balance, that’s heavier on one side than the other”. Once we reach the chorus, the vocal layering amplifies the sound and the strumming takes a harsher route that suggests there is much emotion going into its playing. it’s as if the song is expanding when the drums join in and the instrumentation swells; throughout the EP they remind me of much of Phoebe Bridgers’ repertoire as the drums come and go when needed and take their own journeys.
“What If?” peacefully concludes the EP as we get time to sit with nothing more than the signature sound of Max and his guitar. It is simple yet effective, a testimony to the strength of the melody as it always has my full and unwavering attention. Graceful harmonies are met with a rhythmic pause from the vocal line and then, we are hit with a fleeting moment of punchy wordplay. We are left pondering as the line “I’ll make sure that we call everyday” buzzes into the abyss just like a failed phone call would and I am left in the dark, feeling full of mysterious emotion and longing for more.