Album Review: Travis is a Tourist – Weakdays EP

By on Monday, 6th July 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Weakdays EP coverEditor Mary and I first encountered Belfast singer/songwriter Travis is a Tourist in a rather fortunate coincidence at SXSW 2014, where he performed both on his own and with fellow Northern Irish artist RAMS’ Pocket Radio. Travis is a Tourist, who is known offstage as Travis Gilbert, has been steadily on the TGTF radar since then, with an appearance at Liverpool Sound City 2014 and now, after more than a year’s wait, a new EP release titled ‘Weakdays’.

The EP’s title is thought-provoking, even before you hear a single note of the music. The tweaked spelling of ‘weekdays’ implies an unsettled feeling, a sense of restlessness and anticipation. Musically, the songs on the EP reflect that sentiment by way of wistful guitar melodies, lingering vocal lines, and perpetual rhythmic motion, while thematically the effect is achieved through the direct, concise emotional impact of Gilbert’s introspective lyrics. Gilbert’s restrained vocal delivery is key to the reflective nature of the songs, and the slight roughness in his singing voice is perfectly modulated to the mood of the music.

‘Weakdays’ opens with a frank and self-revelatory track called ‘Tourist’, whose initial line is a strong statement of intent: “For those who don’t know, I’ve always had a fascination with leaving home”. Melancholy and resigned, the song still retains a confident sense of determination and pace that sets the tone for the rest of the EP. (Gilbert also wins points here with a reference to one of my personal favourite Counting Crows songs in the opening verse.)

The EP’s first single ‘Loosen Up’, which you can download for free for a limited time from Gilbert’s SoundCloud, is a slow burner with a languorous opening verse and a quick, shuffling chorus that will make your heart skip a beat. The simple refrain is warmly memorable, more of a reassuringly whispered mantra than a boldly declared motto, with a repeated bridge section echoing beneath the final repeat. The song was premiered on The Thin Air last week and has already received radio play on BBC Radio Ulster’s Across the Line as that program’s Track for the Day #175.

‘Getting Close’ opens with a chugging muted guitar under the evocative lyrical hook, “evening crept in, just as afternoon had wore thin” before growing into an expansively melodic chorus. Despite its fretful title, ‘Worry’ is uptempo and energetic throughout, with blissed out vocal layers in its chorus, “don’t worry about the morning sun / don’t worry, it’ll still be there when you get up”.

The EP closes, appropriately, with the austere arrangement of ‘Loud’, which exemplifies Travis is a Tourist’s fundamental sound, distilled down to the raw emotional power of a single guitar and Gilbert’s intensely understated vocals before layering strings and backing vocals in the repeated chorus. Gilbert has wisely resisted the temptation to overproduce the songs on this EP, choosing instead to highlight his best assets, namely the fine grit of his singing voice and his honest, uncomplicated approach to songwriting.

8/10

Travis is a Tourist’s self-released EP ‘Weakdays’ is available now on his Bandcamp page.  Previous TGTF coverage of Travis is a Tourist can be found right back here.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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