Mainly Genius

Review: Tom Stephens – Division (EP)
June 22, 2010, 6:44 pm
Filed under: Review | Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Before we go anywhere I must offer my apologies for my lack of recent posting. As is often the case during the summer months, I’ve been away having much fun and neglecting this blog. But I’m here now and before I leave you all again, I’ve managed squeeze in a little gem for your listening pleasure. And the good news is that’s totally free.

Today’s offering comes from the guitar of singer/songwriter Tom Stephens and his first outing as a solo artist. Spending most of his music career to this point as frontman for various different bands (one of which springs to mind…), this short EP marks a departure from rock music and is very much in the realm of all that is acoustic.

Opener My Rosie is unquestionably the highlight and isn’t just your usual singer/songwriter fare. Whilst all the pieces are there for a Damien Rice regurgitation (acoustic guitars, double bass, strings), what we actually get is a dark and slightly angular track that makes full use of the acoustic guitar’s resonant capabilities. Tom’s impassioned and rough-round-the-edges voice adds real character and emotion to create a clever feeling of sympathy rather than tear-jerking sadness.

Whilst the EP doesn’t quite rise to these heights again, the Nick Drake inspired strings on third track Family Tree, are another interesting play on the normal format. It begins nicely enough, but it’s not until the strings rise and sway that the song really begins to lift and show how a simple chord pattern can be given a new life with the simplest of additions.

However, despite the excellent string arrangement and high quality of songwriting, I can’t help but feel that the EP is a touch overambitious and muddy in places.

The double bass employed on It Could Happen To You should work in principle but on the record it just doesn’t sit well with the acoustic guitars. It sounds clunky, overcomplicated and actually works against the stripped back simplicity of tracks such as the aforementioned It Could Happen To You and My Rosie.

And despite the beauty of the string arrangement on Family Tree, it’s sounds separated from the rest of the song. The acoustic guitar struggles to cope with the depth and vastness a string section brings and, if drums or percussion aren’t an option (which is understandable), perhaps there’s a case to be made for the stripped back sound we hear on the rest of the EP, to come into play a little more rigorously here.

But please don’t misunderstand me. Overall this is a very accomplished record. The high production values are a welcome change and should be a template for others in the same genre. Similarly, the quality of songwriting stands above many of those with far greater reputations and hints something very exciting to come.

Whilst it may not be the finished article yet, it’s an extremely solid base on which to build and is up there with Dark Mean’s Music Box (EP) as my favourite free download of 2010.  Get it while you can.

Download Division (EP) for free or visit Tom Stephens

Below are My Rosie and Family Tree from the excellent and soulful Division (EP) by Tom Stephens. My Rosie is available to download but you can get the whole shebang for free right here.

Tom Stephens – My Rosie

Tom Stephens – Family Tree


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[…] EP Division (full review here) was, although a touch overambitious and muddy in places, an accomplished and brooding affair that […]

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