BLIND TASTE TEST: Eaves – What Green Feels Like

It’s the return leg of this taste test between Fran and Tom. Remember, these are when one writer recommends an album another has never heard and makes them review it after just one listen. Fran had a great time with Majical Cloudz. Will Tom feel the same about Fran’s recommendation?

Dear Tom,

I discovered Eaves while perusing the lineup for Latitude 2015. It was one of those albums that grabbed me by the gullet on the very first listen, which is why I think (hope) it’ll be perfect for a blind taste test.

From gorgeous opener ‘Pylons’, through stunning ballads ‘Spin’ and ‘Timber’, past the rockier ‘Old as The Grave’, all the way to closer ‘Creature Carousel’, this is a set of supernaturally good songs. The storytelling in the lyrics. The simple but masterful structures. The voice.

I saw Eaves twice at that Latitude Festival, and then once more at Soup Kitchen in Manchester. I was transfixed. Who was this rough-around-the-edges 23-year-old writing songs that Dylan would be proud of? He was, surely, going to be huge.

And then, like that, he was gone. No sign of music since. I’ve always felt that Eaves deserves some sort of cult following, so here I am, trying to start one. Will you join me?

I’m bringing absolutely no preconceptions to the artist known as Eaves, other than the fact that Hull City have a centre forward called Tom Eaves who our fans exaggeratedly shout “EEEEAVES” at whenever he does anything. I don’t think that’ll be of any use here.

Look, I have this mental block thing about listening to new albums from completely new artists that people recommend. Because what if it’s, you know, not good? Fran sent me his intro to What Green Feels Like two and a half weeks ago at the time of writing, and I’ve been putting it off because I don’t really like the artwork (a collection of shelved artefacts) and the album is 51 minutes long (which is a long time to pay attention to something bad).

I’m imagining that this will sound like Bob Dylan, but I’ve never listened to Dylan so I’ve no idea if that’s a good thing or not. No more stalling, let’s play.

‘Pylons’ opens exactly as I thought it would. There’s some pretty acoustic guitar, then Eaves’ voice which grabs the attention immediately. Fran highlighted it in his intro for good reason – this lad has great singing chops. But then what’s this? Two minutes in, a band comes out of nowhere and adds acoustic embellishments I didn’t know the song was missing! They’ve crept up on me, sitting in the background unseen – and I love it. What a start.

I haven’t made many notes about ‘Dove in Your Mouth’, the second track – other than “pleasant”. That sounds like damning with faint praise, but what I mean is that it keeps the tempo set by that strong opener, which is still reverberating around my head. I love a good opener and closer – it has such an effect on the overall piece. And sure enough, as we hit ‘Spin’, What Green Feels Like’s next tune, I’m properly in the mood for this record now. It’s very driven by that simple acoustic guitar and a series of strong harmonies which have an alluring effect. There’s also a lovely tempo shift during the last minute of the track. We’re three tracks into the nine and it’s safe to say, I can see how this guy and his band got your attention a few years back, Fran.

It’s hard to take note of lyrics during a first listen of anything (and I won’t), but the a capella that starts ‘As Old as the Grave’ is enchanting. In a honking demonstration of my lack of folk listening, this one reminds me of something from Fleet Foxes’ debut. The vocal performance really drives the song, and the variation across the record between acoustic folky bits and full band eruptions of noise are why this album has been so compelling so far.

And the atmosphere is switched up again on ‘Timber’. I have to say, this song is absolutely arresting. The way he uses words – I mean it’s difficult to do a deep dive into what it all means from a first listen, but the poetic use of language is superb and so confidently executed. It’s telling that this song is nearly five minutes long and it absolutely skips by. It’s the highlight so far.

I have that famous dreaded Thought When Things Are Going Well that this album has to slip up somewhere soon. I mean, why is there so little out there on this guy? An album in 2015, a bunch of festivals and then… nothing? I look at the remaining tracklist and – hmm – there are some long boys across the final stretch of this: which could be good things or banana skins.

I have no idea what ‘Hom-A-Gum’ means, but the chord progression reminds me of the outro bit from Radiohead’s ‘You and Whose Army’, which I like. The steady drums and repetition of “before you give it up, look at the job you’ve done” give it the feeling that it’s building up to something. But it doesn’t really, and while I enjoyed the rising horns in the background and the attempt to mix up the first half’s tempo, I’m not sure it needed to stretch out for over seven minutes. I can only imagine that it’s going to set us up for a big finale across the final third.

‘Alone in My Mind’ is a nice acoustic number, but I’m starting to think we were spoiled in the first half of this record as it doesn’t live up to some of the earlier highlights. ‘Purge’ though, the longest song here, opens with a cacophony of instrumentation which is basically a clear signal that says “this is going to be an epic”. Eaves croons “water drips from my elbow, spiralling down…” and it’s immediately more captivating than the preceding two songs. The instrumentation is nice on this one too; the wider band sounds as good on this as it has across the whole record.

And then the chords of ‘Creature Carousel’ say “reflective album closer” to me.

This guy really does have a wonderful voice. It sounds kind of effortless how he glides over the music, enunciating the words where he pleases, confidently shifting from deep tones to lighter notes. Falsetto smoothly seeps into the chorus. This is the kind of number that I can imagine being mesmerising live. An intimate, hushed closer driven by the strum of the guitar and that voice. It’s a splendid way to finish the album.

Eaves’ What Green Feels Like didn’t grab me by the gullet at all – it was far too classy and compelling to have to do such a thing. The highlights are pretty much those called out in the intro: a cracking opener and closer, and a beautiful three-track run in the middle that really ties this record together. A really enjoyable listen; add me to that cult, Fran.

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