Having mastered the three-song concept EP with their 2009 release Captain's Log, Honest Engines return for round two with a similarly succinct little record. This time, The French Song EP takes us to a darker place, diverging from the epic ambitions of the debut EP and tinging its tightly written pop with a melancholic defeatism.
The EP sets off with its title track, a wistful, uptempo song that cuts its guitars with occasional synth and light sampling. "El Jardin," the record's centerpiece, is driven by a palpable ennui and a sullen regard for time's passing. "I used to be strong; now I'm just tired," remark the lyrics. Like it was strange to hear Neil Young muse that he was "getting old" in his early twenties, this remorse at aging coming from such a young band feels slightly ironic. But it's our twenties that first make us start to feel old, and Honest Engines splendidly captures that passive regret for days gone by.
"Sunny Setting Sun" infuses the record with a fresh optimism with its swooping background vocals and jangly guitars. It's a delightfully catchy finish, but it almost sounds like a conclusion to a bigger record, one that we've not yet heard. It feels as though there are some missing reels between each of the EP's three tracks. Each is a solid song that plays a bold move, but the tonal leaps make it seem as though there could be more content here. Compared to Captain's Log, French Song is a little disparate, without the arc that made Honest Engines' debut so successful. And that arc is essential to making a three-song EP sound like a record and not just a teaser for one.
As a fan of their debut, I'm still glad to hear Honest Engines evolve from the active desperation of Captain's Log to a more complex tone. You won't find the hooking, singalong quality of the prior EP's title track, but it goes to show that Honest Engines can mold their sound with time. Having departed from the enormous theatricality of Captain's Log, they've arrived at a quieter but more interesting place. It just happens to be a place that deserves more exploration than you can fit in three songs. Here's hoping they stick it out for a longer release. Until then, these three tracks are still well worth your time.
The French Song EP will be released via Tandem Shop Records on May 3rd. You can pre-order the disc now at their online store.
Check out "French Song" below:
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