Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on James Conor, a singer songwriter currently residing in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Today, Friday, October 21, Conor is releasing his debut EP, an aptly titled record called ‘Entry Point.’ The four song collection is well crafted, arguably more so than most indie artist’s first outings. Is it worth adding to your collection, though? Let’s dig into the music and find out.
Conor introduces himself with ‘Best Friend,’ a sharply executed tune that mixes pop sensibility and production style with a quirky brand of lyricism. It’s a lovely song that maneuvers its way Conor’s musings about how important his best friend is to him. It has a bright timbre and quality that’s reminiscent of, perhaps, Queen’s ‘You’re My Best Friend’ or the White Stripes’ ‘We’re Going To Be Friends.’ It’s relatable and very personable - an excellent introduction to Conor’s songwriting style.
‘Not Anymore,’ a more soulful excursion, is a stronger lyrical outing than its predecessor. Despite its upbeat presentation, the subject matter is somewhat more melancholy. Conor delves into a relationship that he’s clearly making a decision to move away from, and in doing so, finding betterment for himself. Like ‘Best Friend,’ ‘Not Anymore’ has an inherently human quality to it. These are songs we’ve all felt in some capacity.
In some ways, ‘Beautiful Lady’ feels like a spiritual partner to ‘Not Anymore.’ Both are songs about someone causing internal strife for Conor. The root of that conflict, however, is very different in the songs. In ‘Beautiful Lady,’ Conor is pining for a woman that can’t be his. It’s a powerful track, even though Conor doesn’t get into why the woman isn’t available. That doesn’t matter much, though, I’d argue, because anyone who has longed for someone unavailable will find similar emotions at play here.
‘Chillin’,’ a live recording that closes ‘Entry Point,’ is actually one of its finest moments. Conor performs on acoustic guitar and a kick-drum, one of his standard solo performing set-ups. The stripped down nature of the lyricism and performance is absolutely fantastic. Conor feels much looser than any other track on the album, and his comfort is noticeable. The organic feel of the song is splendid, and a strong indicator that Conor is an act worth checking out live if you can.
‘Entry Point’ is a rather exceptional set of four recordings. For a debut album, I’m astounded at how finely tuned James Conor’s music already is. I’d love to hear a full album of it. Furthermore, I’d love to see that album explore more of Conor’s bare-bones performance styles, akin to ‘Chillin.’’ Check out this EP; it’s on iTunes Amazon, Spotify, and other services now. It’s worth your time.