ONE OF US WAS BUILDING AN EMPIRE
Lossline’s melancholia is pretty much unmatched. They say they “write sad songs”. And yet, strangely perhaps, I find this comforting. It’s real and unpretentious, and as I listen to their music I feel a sense of relief. It’s OK – someone else understands.
There’s also so much more to it than ‘sad’. Lossline are at the same time heart-rendingly honest, fragile, and lo-fi, but yet innovative. This may be gloomcore, but it’s good gloomcore, capturing the zeitgeist while remaining resolutely outside of it.
This is their time. Lossline are on the up, and in my opinion are writing some of the best lyrics out there at the moment. Their ability to capture a feeling of everyday malaise, vulnerability and the mundane and yet make it engaging – and in some intangible way enjoyable – is second-to-none.
The EP is bookended by two contrasting songs, ‘A Telephone Call’ and ‘It Takes a Village’. These are songs which have what the band described to me as “opposing but linked themes”: death and birth.
‘A Telephone Call’ opens with a piano riff which is gentle and melodic and at the time utterly heart-rending. Even if you didn’t know that the song was written after the loss of a dear grandmother, from the perspective of her bereft husband, you’d pick up on that emotion pretty quickly. The band weave enchantingly lonely imagery here, and use music to help you read between the lines of their words.
Next up is ‘Case History’, which was released as a standalone single on 10 September. Musically, this one is quite different from the first track – echoey, ambient guitars and a slightly distant beat; duetted vocals at times descending to a growl; and then edging close to fuzzy rock. And oh boy, the angst. It builds, it swirls, it engulfs. But then, like a taxi out of the fog – could that be a glimmer of … hope?
“There’s light in the darkest days, a lantern through the night: I’m OK, I’m alright.
There’s worse days and better days, the peaks and troughs of life: I’m OK, I’m alright”
This is the brilliance of painting predominantly sad pictures – moments like this shine all the brighter.
On ‘This Room Smells of Smoke’, we’re slowed again. As the ambient guitar is reprised, the song drips with atmosphere. The band wallows in the mundane;, painfully aware of it, but refusing simply to sit back and accept it.
The fourth track is ‘I Worry About My Health and Caffeine Intake’; another song released as a single ahead of the EP, and probably – on the surface – representing the most upbeat you’ll ever find Lossline. The beat is quick, the guitars rapid and furry. But don’t worry – Jack and Adam are still resolutely painting uncannily relatable cameos in their lyrics. This is a song in the vein of Radiohead’s ‘Fitter, happier’, exposing the flaws of modern life and its expectations.
And then: “I try to cut through the monotony” … Long pause … intake of breath – or is it a sigh?
This to me is a pivotal moment on the record. It’s a pause in the song, in the whole EP, and in life, too. In that breath is somehow captured a universe of shared experience: we take a moment, a brief time out, and then back to the maelstrom.
We reach the final track, the piano lead reflecting the sound of the first song. ‘It Takes A Village’ was written and recorded in a day, after “a particularly bad night” with a young baby, this is a refreshingly honest account of the relentless emotional turbulence of parenthood; the mix of deep love, moments of joy, and utter exhaustion. It was born out of the frustration that new parents feel when being constantly reminded to “enjoy” the experience, seemingly forgetting “the difficulties in such a major and transformative life event”, as Jack put it to me. He describes it as one of the most natural and simple songs he’s written; and it really is. As someone who’s been there, and has felt more than a little irritated by unrealistic images of parenthood, this song really spoke to me – it’s honest and revealing, not shying away from life in all its unglamorous yet fulfilling truth.
This is something of the greatness of Lossline – it’s two guys from Manchester laying their hearts on the line, being themselves, and not hiding behind any gloss. This reaches people. We’re grateful for it. Long live gloomcore.
Words by PHIL TAYLOR for The Songbird HQ
This article has also been featured on Music Observed Blog
All photo credits – Lossline