Elephant & Soldier - First Shots EP

Bill Cummings 14/05/2009

Rating: 4/5

I first came into contact with the music of Cardiff-based singer Sam Goudie and his fellow collaborators known as Elephant & Soldier with their track on the Full Fat Mix Tape (CD) of local artists. Further investigation revealed a hugely accomplished whole free download EP called First Shots. Superlative opener and title track (yes First Shots) sets the tone: a fire crackles, guitars are plucked, Olivia Smith's mournful cello notes sigh, Sam's voice aches, as he almost unbearably meditates upon a first love that's crumbling in front of his eyes('you look like a angel/with a devil on your face'), to utter cracked pain in the outro, at times he echoes the melancholy of Bon Iver's 'For Emma...', at others the work of Ray LaMontagne.

Stitches meanwhile is a more soft, short slice of intimate beauty, and is briefly redolent of the hushed bitter sweetness of Eliot Smith. 'Part Of Yours' is another potential single, a stunning introspective vocal that gradually rises to command, feathered by gentle strumming and piano tinkles; a tale of a personality losing itself in a relationship, it lays bare a tremblingly forthright piece of self analysis: ('Don't take me out/I'm the one that needs to work on my head/for a while'). There may be a few too many shades of the blander moments of Damien Rice on Strangers for soe, but the final seven minutes of last track Blackout Club make it clear that Elephant and Soldier have a more expansive, ragged potential that will be tapped in future years, shifting from brutal raw minimalism into fuller accompaniments of stabbing strings and straggling, berating guitars. It stares darkness in the eyes in the depths of the night time and doesn't flinch: it harks to an imagined Jeff Buckley composition, or the early work of Bright Eyes. This is an excellent EP, that's obviously been produced to a very high standard, with Sam Goudie showing an instinct and insight in his songwriting way beyond his years. You could imagine this EP being released as it is and doing very well now, but you lucky people can get it for free on the link below, I urge you to check out his brilliant reworking of All My Friends by LCD Soundsystem too.