Impossible to look at the artwork without thinking about the midwest emocore scene of the late nineties. An obvious homage and influence for this debut album of a belgian songwriter. But instead of being backward-looking, his music is more melodic, indie and modern, with less tense/quiet variations than those influences, while the guitar never hides the lineage.
"Trace" starts the album like an hypothetic single but fails to convince me for a strange reason. On one side, there is a strict melody with math-rock influences, a smooth and fluid dynamic tension, not so different from what we can find on Kickball or Van Pelt records. On the other side there are the vocals, gently, shy and reserved, intimate, soft and pop, and I don't know why but it makes me think of Harvey Williams and of his band Blueboy, one of the main artists on Sarah Records. The two sides are not helping each other, the vocals would fit better on some acoustic pop songs with keyboards while the music would request something more emotional and rough. Core and heart are different things.
Hopefully the whole album is not following this strange dichotomy, other songs are suffering from this but with diverse proportions.
It's only when It leaves, It leaves totally gives up about tight guitar melodies with at the opposite, sensitive melodic vocals, that it turns into something unique and much more convincing. Three songs seem more personal, darker and less like band performances, much more desperate "solo" drifts.
It's just like if the mirror of the rest of the album was finally broken, and we can discover It Leaves, It Leaves without mask.
Then it's just poignant and moving and the only way to go for his next release. There is redemption and quiet rage, coldness and bitterness, and it's not sure that you can leave these songs completely safe and unscathed.
For me, this full length should have been separated in two parts, with these three tracks released just as a ep with "The Night", "It's not death but what's dying with us" and "Skammen". But as it is offered as a free download you are free to make your playlist.