Ever heard an artist you instantly connected with? Like, from the first time you heard their music you just knew they were red hot? Having grown up in a household where I was force fed your 60s, 70s and 80s classics, I’ve developed a strong appreciation for acts who sound like they don’t belong in 2021; but rather most definitely seem a better fit for a time that well pre-dates my own birth. Artists like EJ Worland, the Australian act with a sound from the Deep South, filled with soul, groove and gospel. It’s a sound that doesn’t necessarily fit into today’s Top 40, but my lord, it most definitely should.
Here on his debut EP No One Left To Blame, Worland has created six tracks that will go a long to booking him spots at a plethora of festivals for people who love listening to the best music. With music that harks back decades and transcends continents, Worland has managed to develop a sound that touches on so many different styles that you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s an album of covers or a best-of accumulated over a twenty year career and multiple albums of reinventions.
If you had to draw a comparison in Worland’s sound to any current day act it would be The Teskey Brothers, Matt Corby or Alabama Shakes, with touches of Leon Bridges or St. Paul and The Broken Bones. And if you had to compare him to anyone from a lifetime ago, Sam Cooke or Marvin Gaye would be a fair comparison. Now, let’s be clear, I don’t want to paint Worland in such an acclaimed light that No One Left To Blame can’t or doesn’t live up to this review. That isn’t my intention. I’m just genuinely struggling to think of a debut EP from the past couple of years that has been so strong from front to back.
Worland opens the EP with “Do Better (Make Me Wanna Scream)”, a track that introduces the listener to Worland’s gospel and gold tinged vocals. The horns and backing vocals truly come into their own through the closing bridge and closing chorus. It’s climactic building, while not the first song to do so, definitely sets the tone for the remainder of the EP. The stormy atmosphere on “Do Better (Make Me Wanna Scream)” could easily have continued on the remainder of No One Left To Blame and you’d be entirely happy with the result.
Luckily, “Over The Pond” follows up with a near mirror of what The Teskey Brothers would dish out: a slick, downbeat, slow dance moment that would soundtrack every wedding’s first dance between here and infinity. Worland’s vocals come through with the goods once again. The addition of organs is perhaps the song’s crowning moment.
No One Left To Blame tops out on “Hard to Find”, the most resounding and outwardly confident song about second guessing yourself. With its cheeky instrumentation (read: best use of flute in recent memory), tormented vocals, and a breakdown that pre-empts the song’s crescendo that feels very much like it’s been ripped straight from Innerspeaker era Tame Impala, “Hard to Find” is magic. A little reminiscent of the more manic tracks from Lime Cordiale, if there is to be a song on the EP that will burst Worland out from the periphery of taste makers it will almost definitely be “Hard to Find”.
If Matt Corby and Paolo Nutini ever collaborated there’s every chance their song will sound like “Take it Easy”; a slinky, sleepy Sunday morning type of track. It’s subtle and sweet, and cruises for the opening 2:30mins before reaching its pinnacle over the last minute or so. Rounded out with “Poison Lies”, the longest track on the EP, No One Left To Blame will be one of the best debut EPs to come out this year.
With a sound made for a stage, killer live band and horn section, don’t sleep on EJ Worland. Get in now before his stocks rise.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Worland will be launching No One Left To Blame at Sydney’s Mary’s Underground on May 1st. Tickets HERE.