REVIEW: Lossline – One of Us Was Building An Empire

A cursory scan of the song titles on the new Lossline EP, One of Us Was Building An Empire, suggests that it isn’t going to be a cheery affair. It’s a prediction borne out by the listening experience. The record offers five downbeat slices of lo-fi bedroom pop, each marrying gravelly vocals and darkly confessional lyrics to moody soundscapes. 

Within that template, though, there is plenty of variation. ‘A Telephone Call’ is a meditative piano piece that calls to mind Aqualung, while ‘Case History’ walks the line between dream pop and slacker rock with a soaring, cacophonous chorus. While clearly all the work of the same band, the songs explore enough different sonic avenues within that broader template to keep things interesting.

Within the miserabilist world conjured up by the songs, there are even moments of beauty, when a little bit of light manages to peek through the minor chords and the gloom. The echoey vocals on ‘It Takes A Village’ take on a reflective, cinematic quality, and there is something anthemic about the frenetic drumming and driving piano chords on ‘I Worry About My Health and Caffeine Intake’. The middle eight of ‘Case History’ sums up this paradox best: “I’m ok, I’m alright, there’s light in the darkest days…There’s worse days and better days, peaks and troughs”.

Across all the songs, the lyrics are literal, stark and confessional. Eschewing the gnomic utterances that some songwriters fall back on, the lyrics here are rooted in reflection on the mundane and the everyday. The collective impression is of millenial angst and ennui, of lives painted in shades of grey. ‘I Worry About My Health and Caffeine Intake’ offers a particularly pronounced slice of disappointment, with the singer as unimpressed with himself (“I let myself down time after time”) as the world around him (“I try to cut through the monotony”) and the lack of care from “friends who don’t reply”. Even the ostensibly more optimistic ‘It Takes A Village’, a paean to fatherhood, offers a clear eyed look at being a parent that concludes that “everyone’s forgotten just how hard it is, to live your life for somebody else.’

‘This Room Smells of Smoke’ in turn offers a picture of life lived on autopilot, its protagonists wry spectators in their own lives. Their tone walks the line between apathy and bleak humour as they observe, “We’ll refill our drinks in the hope the next one will be different” and “The door’s unlocked but there isn’t anything here worth taking anyway”. 

The band tap into a very British strain of downbeat miserabilism, neither defeated by their travails nor ever really rising above them. The songs don’t offer catharsis, seeming instead content to simply portray ordinary lives as they are, without gloss or polish. As I said at the start, there’s nothing here to cheer the listener. But the EP is an involving listen nonetheless.

Words by Will Collins