(SXSW 2016 flavoured!) Album Review: Banners – Banners EP

By on Tuesday, 9th February 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Banners debut EP coverBanners, the stage name of Liverpudlian singer/songwriter Mike Nelson, is set to make waves at SXSW 2016 next month. (Read Rebecca’s introduction to Banners from last month here.) Why do I say this? Every once in a while, I get a weird feeling in my bones about a new artist after listening to their music and I just know that superstardom awaits them. (Full disclosure: while I haven’t been 100% accurate, my record is none too shabby, having correctly predicted the success of Two Door Cinema Club, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Kodaline and The 1975.) I got the same kind of feeling upon hearing the opening track of Banners’ self-titled EP released last month.

‘Start a Riot’ begins as reverential as might be expected in this era of pop fully embracing synths and effects: with the electronic echo of a choir that are recalled a couple of times throughout the track. It’s a sweeping tune reminiscent of early Coldplay, with the guitars being the most energetic part of the track. Despite the single’s combative title, Nelson’s own vocals are more emotional than argumentative, providing support to a loved one “when your world falls apart” and “if night falls in your heart / I’d light the fire / in the dark, when you sound the alarm / we’ll find each other’s arms / for your love”. ‘Ghosts’ later on in the EP is another Banners track done in a wistful, Chris Martin style.

This slower, contemplative mood doesn’t last. You go straight into ‘Shine a Light’ next, a Kodaline-esque number with plenty of sing-along moments, so much that you can easily imagine it having been penned and sung by Steve Garrigan. Nelson has explained “the song is about feeling lost at sea and desperately searching for a beacon of light. It’s about waiting for that one big wave to finally pull you under while clinging on to that one last ray of hope. It’s a song to the person in your life that offers salvation while the storm is raging around you.” Given that, the use of Nelson’s forlorn falsetto in the slower verses to provide contrast with the faster, bouncier rock chorus is done to great effect, as if to mimic the highs and lows, the ebb and flow of our lives.

EP standout ‘Gold Dust’ is another anthemic pop number with a driving beat. In it, Nelson maintains a positive, engaging stance, insisting that like an alchemist, “when the nights grow cold / and it’s all gone to rust / we can turn it into gold dust”, he came make things better with his love. The EP ends on an equally strong note, with ‘Back When We Had Nothing’. It’s a nostalgic, yet painfully melancholic look back at a simpler, more innocent time.“I feel my blood rushing / burning like a glory blaze / back when we had nothing / we had everything”, he sings, with the desire of wanting to recapture that feeling. Nelson’s strong vocals, bolstered by glittering synths: pop doesn’t get much better than this.

9/10

The ‘Banners’ EP is out now on Island Records. If you’re lucky enough to live in North America, you’re in luck. Do yourself a favour and get yourself to one of the many club gigs Banners has scheduled before and after SXSW 2016. He also will be appearing at the Great Escape 2016 in Brighton in May.

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One Response

9:56 pm
30th October 2016

Great review of a brilliant EP

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