KEEP CHECKING UP ON ME
Chartreuse, a name drawn from the rolling wilderness of the French mountain region, implies all that is expansive and beautiful. This Birmingham might quartet hail from somewhat closer to home, but new EP Keep Checking Up On Me is certainly evocative of all the name implies.
Having quietly built up a following with their subtle brand of dark intimacy, with Keep Checking Up On Me, they hit the stride in carving out their sound. Opening with Tall Grass, which pulls the listener in with a ray of aural autumn light stretching on a silvery lake. It’s an introduction which sets the tone perfectly; leading into representative recent single release Enemys Belly, and then into the tender ambiance of the title track.
The five tracks that make up the EP are unashamedly open, swaddled in reflective vulnerability. They are relatively short, but feel expansive in spite of the intimacy (the two should never be mutually exclusive.) References to childhood and family segue into adulthood neurosis through striking metaphors (parents buying a soul, a spine left behind by a mother’s bedside.)
The intensity is further enabled by the deep sorrowful tones of frontman and founder member Michael Hagstaff’s voice. Sounding like he is carrying the weight of the world in his vocal cords, it marries the delicate flickers of the instrumentation to build something very tender. When the lead vocals switch to his fellow co-founder Harriet Wilson (on Blue State), the feel is still maintained. Wilson’s vocals, however, are a more jazz-infused affair, bringing a new dimension to the indie-folk ambiance.
By the time the closing track, Hope That You’re Not Holy, is reached, it feels like the confessional session of a dawn chorus. Slightly woozy, delicate, prepared to seep gradually under your skin, there is a sense that this EP will draw comparisons to American staples such as My Morning Jacket and The National. However, Chartreuse are very much their own band, with a sound already clearly established as their own. To call it an Anglicised take would probably be wrong; instead, there is something universal in their reflective themes and blend of musical tradition and modernity. However, the smell of rain which seems to be conjured by each track does imply steps through English autumn-beaten fields.
A sweetheart dwelling within something more potent – much like Chartreuse liqueur itself – this is a band who, with this EP, have created something thoroughly evocative and relatable.
Listen to Enemy’s Belly below:
Keep Checking Up On Me is out now on Communion Music. More details can be found on the bands Twitter.
Buy the EP here.
Special thanks to Chalk Press Agency
All words by Amy Britton. Find more on her archive https://louderthanwar.com/author/amy-britton/