An artist providing a sense of idiosyncrasy in a saturated market of equally striving singer-songwriters, Joey Collins’ latest EP acts both as a statement of fragility and confusion, but also as a paean to self-reflection and emotional maturity.
Joey Collins is part of a rare breed of artists, integrally independent and resolutely defiant. His blend of authenticity and startling honesty is in such demand right now, yet the songwriters that provide it are facing a crisis of extinction. In the past, the Nottingham artist has displayed himself bathed in emotional unrest and consistent turmoil, battling inner demons with wavering success. Sophomore record Requiem saw Collins attack modern issues in a hauntingly original and honest manner, his darkened lyrical themes touching on death, addiction and mental health in a way that had listeners recoiling as if they had experienced his pain first hand. On his latest EP Live, Learn, Die & Forget It All, Collins retains an emotional and lyrical dexterity to satisfy those in need of a smattering of hope.
Yet despite its seemingly downtrodden musings, the EP’s preamble possesses rose-tinted glimpses of positivity. The line in which the track’s title takes a nod from, ‘Alas, I’ll live, learn, die and forget it all anyway’, highlights a newfound adversity from Collins, a distinctive divergence from the darkened themes permeating his intoxicating first two records. Having started simply as a poem in his journal, the singer-songwriter has taken a tale of a relationship’s fragmentation and transformed it into a statement of maturity and catharsis.
'His blend of authenticity and startling honesty is in such demand right now, yet the songwriters that provide it are facing a crisis of extinction'.
The EP’s unconventional opening serves as a prelude to Hollow, a visceral release that follows its precursor in a similar lyrical vein, despite its sonic differences. Soaked in reverb, the grunge-laden single takes a dash of inspiration from shoegaze icons Ride and My Bloody Valentine, with churning riffs swiping pernicious incisions into its listener. Bolstered by textured harmonies within its chorus, Hollow develops into a kaleidoscopic rock track propelled by a diverse guitar and percussive configuration, blended with a delicate and sweeping string arrangement to glissade the track to a charming conclusion.
One of Collins’ most resounding features as an artist is his ability to evoke an array of concise sentiments and display them against a fitting backdrop of instrumentation. On Black Is The Colour, a Celtic folk song and homage to his Celtic roots, Collins creates an enchanting soliloquy embedded with rugged vocals, which feels as if it could fit amongst the early Biffy Clyro discography. His complex backing arrangement floats placidly and gently in the background, allowing Collins’ poetic and lilting verses to take centre-stage alongside a delicately ornate guitar arrangement. In similar fashion, Collins’ searching vocals on Angeles reach longingly, promising a lifetime of fortitude. With its hastened production, the Elliott Smith cover acts as a soft and winding solo mission, stripped of all complexity.
'In a world in lockdown, Live, Learn, Die & Forget It All acts both as a statement of fragility and confusion that can be felt by millions across the country, but also as a paean to self-reflection and emotional maturity'.
Whilst complexity is stripped in its entirety on Angeles, an updated rendition of recent single Sertraline Dreams offers a simply breathtaking vocal offering embellished with a scintillating orchestral arrangement, courtesy of Nathan Hart. The lyrics ‘I haven’t felt so slow so I thought I’d write a song to take this pain away’ are dipped in anguish and desolation, whilst an insurgent, screening guitar line dances wildly in the track’s midriff, violins subsequently swaying delicately in the background. The winding paths of instrumentation all climax at the same point – the culmination of a year’s emotional and artistic turmoil emulsifying within cries of ‘where do we go from here?’, which, despite its longing and desperate tonal delivery, acts as an intriguing question for fans to ponder on as the EP comes to a close.
Joey Collins is an artist who, had he been placed in the 1990s, might have gathered the demand and fanbase of those that came before him – the likes of Jeff Buckley and Elliott Smith – whose uncompromising attitude to songwriting structure and honest lyricism place them in the hearts and minds of lost poets across the country. Yet in the modern day, he stands out as one of a few singer-songwriters that provide a sense of idiosyncrasy in a saturated market of equally striving artists. In a world in lockdown, Live, Learn, Die & Forget It All acts both as a statement of fragility and confusion that can be felt by millions across the country, but also as a paean to self-reflection and emotional maturity. Joey Collins is finding his feet again, embracing positivity and the unknown possibilities of the future. Where he chooses to go next will be an intriguing prospect indeed.