John Parker & Sam O’Doherty – Icarus EP

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John Parker and Sam O’Doherty are a couple of bearded music makers who, in a remarkably short space of time, managed to write and record their captivating debut EP, Icarus, which will be released on 1st January 2013 via Yellowdog Projects.
The pair are based in Paris where they’ve spent the last two months writing, playing and recording together.

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind collaboration but these boys found something that just seemed to click. It also didn’t hurt that they had the support of one of Paris’ best studios (Montmartre Recording) with Jérôme Litré-Froment behind the desk as well as getting one of France’s hottest drumming talents involved, a man named Yann Coste who is one half of percussive duo Fill’s Monkey.

With such great support, John and Sam have produced an EP that is at once warm, hopeful and desperately sad in places.

The title track is one of hope, retelling the story of Icarus in a way that defies pretty much everything with lyrics like “I’m growing new wings now, the sun can only melt me down once”, an attitude which I personally find very appealing. Icarus is also quite dark at the same time, seemingly underlining the fact that hope isn’t necessarily an eternal state, “down he will go, back to the hell he knows”, which adds a refreshingly honest dimension to the song. It builds steadily until it explodes with guitars, layered vocal harmonies, shifting drum patterns and even a hint of glockenspiel.

Folk music isn’t all just unicorns shitting rainbows as it turns out.

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Despite the warmth of the second track Lifetime Alive, there’s a feeling of loss and haunting that runs right through the middle of it, as well as a certain accepted sadness. It’s the kind of track that draws listeners in, and because it has such a rich sound – that bittersweet vocal, underpinned by cello parts and a mellow electric guitar lick for a motif – it’s easy to just let it break your heart.

You can download Lifetime Alive for free via Soundcloud.

The third and final track on this quietly exultant debut is called Cherry Brandy which, after the emotional upheaval of the first two songs, is more or less the perfect title for this “nightcap”. It is gentle as finales go, opening with a very human “Shall I just start?” before effortlessly flowing into the track. Somewhat lighter than the other two tracks, this song has that by-the-fire sound which this particular kind of folk music is known for, bolstered with a bit of DIY percussion on the body of John’s guitar.

After hearing the Icarus EP, I was glad to find out that John Parker & Sam O’Doherty plan to spend a lot of time writing and working on a full-length album in the new year. After all, it’s not everyday you come across something that makes sadness, loss and hope sound quite so appealing.

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