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 evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we delve deep into an eclectic little EP that has dropped recently in the indie scene. ‘You Find Out On Your Own’ is the three track debut of Michael Reddington, a rocker hailing from across the pond in England. He describes his sound as one that “channels the aggressive, yet melodic sound of Noel Gallagher, Neil Young, and Ryan Adams.” That’s a pretty tall order to fill - How does Reddington handle it? Let’s dig into the EP and find out.
Reddington’s life was changed when he had a toe ripped off by an escalator. Music became his solace during a hard time, especially since he had to teach himself to walk properly again. Since then, he’s been performing a regular live circuit in Nottingham to packed clubs and pubs. I imagine his musical style is particularly inviting to this kind of setting - it’s rocking and rollicking, but it has an intimacy to it, a singer-songwriter aura that strips down any ostentatious walls that form around some independent rock acts.
Speaking of ostentatious rock acts, regular readers of the Independent Spotlight are very familiar with the acts I poke at for comedic effect on a regular basis. Oasis, Rush, and U2 to name a few. Fortunately, Reddington takes everything that is right about Oasis’ music and doesn’t manifest any of the pretentious egotism. All of the solid jingly, English pop rock songwriting styles are at play here to great success, something Oasis definitely pioneered into a new generation.
The album opens with ‘You Find Out On Your Order,’ a slickly produced, excellently written song that could most certainly stand on its own as a single. Reddington’s vocals are akin to Gallagher’s, or perhaps even an act like Robyn Hitchcock. He’s accented by sparse harmonies, driving electric guitars, tight percussion, and jangly electric riffs. I’d argue you could trace that lineage pretty far back - those guitar riffs sound like something Roger McGuinn would pen for a Byrds song back in the day.
As long as we’re addressing the acts that one could relate Reddington to, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the newcomer to the mainstream, Jake Bugg. Reddington is distinctly more rock and pop oriented, whereas Bugg is more folk inspired, by the comparison in their songwriting styles and vocals stands. Plus, Bugg is actually from Clifton, a small town within Nottingham. That specific comparison clicked with me when listening to the second track on the EP, ‘Monotony Labotomy.’ (Editorial note - I’m fairly certain ‘Labotomy’ is stylized with an ‘a’ instead of an ‘o’ on purpose.) The song is particularly witty, and I love Reddington’s lyrical style on this piece. He exudes personality and potential.
‘Uniform’ is a track that deals with conformity, though it’s arguably the least interesting of the three lyrical endeavors. Rather, what makes ‘Uniform’ so spectacular is its production and instrumentation. There are actual string sections on the latter half of this piece that nothing short than stunning. They clearly aren’t synthesizers, and the entire composition is hauntingly beautiful. Combined with Reddington’s infectious chorus, the chemistry is undeniable.
Thus, there aren’t many criticisms I have for Reddington’s work. His compositions are elegantly organized, his band is very tight and on mark, and his performances are flawless in their execution. That may come to bite him in the back, later, though. He cites Oasis and Neil Young, for example. The latter will always remain more poignant and important because he ventured, and continues to venture, far outside his comfort zone. ‘You Find Out On Your Own’ does feel like a very comfortable record.
When your record gets into that zone, it can lose a sense of spontaneity, and it can also lose a level of passion. At times, I did feel this with Reddington’s debut. It’s a fine debut, perhaps one of the stronger, more concise efforts of the year. I actually appreciate his brevity in comparison to the countless indie acts that load up an EP full of poorly executed material. For his next effort, though, I think Reddington would be well-served by embracing some greater leaps in experimentalism and creativity. The talent, potential, and prowess are all there. I just have a good feeling that Reddington’s output will, and should, change drastically over the course of his future releases.