This Chris Belson Article was written by David Lowes, a Gigsoup contributor. Edited by Stephen Butchard.
Chris Belson’s debut EP, ‘Moon Songs’, is what you hope a debut would be – punchy, sharp, and surprising. Debuts – even a debut EP – provide an artist with an unique opportunity to surprise their audience without ever leaving their comfort zone. Belson grabs this opportunity. ‘Children’ , the EP’s opening track, is a beautiful ballad about single life and growing up, and so it’s easy to assume that the rest of the EP is going to be a heavy listen.
But then Belson throws a curve ball.
‘The Planets Align’ (previously released) is a funky number that seems to rely more upon jangly pop-hooks than on lyrical strength. But looking deeper, it retains the same lyrical nuance that is present throughout the EP. He surprises us once again.
And he just keeps on doing it. From the downtempo (but much sparser) ‘Come To The Window’, through the soulful Howlin’ Wolf-like ‘Dogs Are Howling At The Moon’, to the poignant closer ‘Without You Again’, this EP presents five wonderfully varied yet wonderfully linked songs.
How does he link them? His thoughtful, deep lyrics serve as an undercurrent. Each song is a chapter in his story. Belson sees sadness and unhappiness in this world and looks up at the sky but finds no solace. Ultimately, he has the bittersweet realisation that the only comfort he can find is within himself.
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His guitar sounds sparse and ethereal, but not so understated that it might as well not be there. The music is wonderfully arranged and it could not be more plain that the EP has been well produced. Even his guest vocalists on tracks 1, 3, and 4 don’t sound as though they have been shoehorned in; they compliment him so well that they sound like fixtures of the song.
Belson’s main strength, though, is his voice. Grating and cynical (like a certain Morrissey), it nevertheless seems to fit into every song here without much effort. From baleful ballads to preppy pop: everything fits Belson perfectly. Even a great song sounds dull if repeated five times, but Belson’s range allows him to change song style without making him sound like a drunk cat.
So how do you describe an effort like this? It’s one of the best debut EP’s to be released in a long time, although not everyone will warm to its edges. If ‘Moon Songs’ is the standard for 2016, it’s going to be a very good year.
‘Moon Songs’ is out now via Laid Bare Records.