Multi-instrumentalist, artist and singer Martin Longstaff, aka The Lake Poets, wrote, performed and mixed Honest Hearts himself with the help of Mick Ross (mixing) and Mark Broughton (engineering). It is the first release from the Sunderland based artist with a name that nicely fits the atmospheric music that he has created here. Short as it is, there is still plenty here to engage with and this is the effect the EP certainly has with five tracks that are quite varied in their own ways.
It opens in mysterious style with windy effects, complementing haunting vocals and a very simple fingerpicking style. Windowsill is a searching song – ‘You’re watching the world from your windowsill / Trying to figure it out.’ Honest Hearts is immediately more upbeat and post-rock in style as the song slowly builds up to a crescendo of drums and guitar as the song explodes into life only to once again end as it begins with just an acoustic guitar. ‘You can take my body but you’ll never get my soul’ repeats Longstaff in defiance.
Dead Horses is quite different with Longstaff’s intriguing vocals weaving a wonderful melody. ‘How do you fix a lost and broken lonely life?’ he sings directly to the listener as if demanding an answer to this question. Angst is the prevalent mood here and it culminates in a wreck of distortion as Longstaff howls in the background in what is seeminly a searching cry for help. This is a very uneasy ending to the most captivating track on the EP.
We move onto Husks, which is where Longstaff’s voice reaches an even greater and more delicate high as he pushes his voice to its limit to achieve an interesting effect. The piano works well here to give depth to this sparsely constructed song, which does not need anything else to distract from its brilliant simplicity. It is definitely Longstaff’s vocal which is the most impressive element here.
The EP ends with a reprise version of Windowsill, as Longstaff repeats an indecipherable line again and again in an eerie manner behind the gently guitar and broody cello. It leaves us with more questions and so ends a very well crafted collection of soul searching songs which carefully explore elements of human nature in a manner which does not always seem comfortable for the songwriter.
The Lake Poets’ Honest Hearts is an accomplished debut release and more of the same would be very welcome.