Lauren Ray latest release continues the rich vein of form that she has shown in her releases in 2018. This EP is perhaps simple in terms of instrumentation than on some of the songs from her debut album "We Will Need Courage" but the simplicity only highlights the quality of the songs even more.
The EP takes its title from a line in the second song "Dull Ache" released as a single earlier in the year, which seeks to find a positive side in grief. Inspired by hearing a lady on a podcast"while touring around Europe, explaining how her grief after 10 years still felt like a "dull ache". This song sensitively tells the story of losing someone unexpectedly and how that feeling never really goes away. All of this wrapped within a glorious three and half minutes of piano, with some simply sympathetic guitar and drums.
The opening song "Be A Man" is the latest single and comes with a quite splendid video which starts with Lauren as a man before she is gradually transformed into her more normal appearance. This deals with that awkward situation where two people are attracted but are waiting for someone to make the first move, in fact it implores the other person to "Be a man about it!". There is a degree of sexually charged tension in air throughout the song with "touching of hands", leading to Lauren to declare "I need a man who can be brave".
"Upstream" is played out on keyboard over a drum machine and is a positive song about staying strong during tough times. The verses spell it out "I could hide under the sheets", or "I just want it all to go away" but instead of giving in the song song is about battling through.
The positivity transfers itself into the chorus which is breezy and upbeat "Stay strong keep swimming upstream" while recognizing "It won't be easy"
The closing song "Black Wings" is perhaps the most different from any previous Lauren release if only for the fact that the keyboards for the first minute are absent and when they do appear it is to play a short but telling refrain. Instead of the keyboard sound there is a very sporadic guitar giving the song a strangely disjointed jazzy feel, Dealing with her desire to succeed in the music industry as an independent artist being like an addiction we find her"like a moth gone insane I will keep chasing the flame". It very much deals with the up and downs "Every time it breaks my heart it leaves a burn it leaves a scar" and recognizing that there will be days when "It hurts like hell".
As the song gets to the climax there are strings and an organ sound that back up the mantra "got to keep going" as she drives for that well deserved success.
Four songs that are all worthy additions to the Lauren Ray catalogue and are a perfect appetisers for the next album. There is a lot of enjoyment to be gleaned here and there is a steady progress and sophistication in the writing and production that will keep you coming back for more.