Following the dissolution of underground indie group Big Deal after three LPs and a tour supporting Depeche Mode amongst their list of accomplishments, singer/guitarist Kacey Underwood has found a new vehicle for the expression of their Californian West Coast psych-pop-rock concoctions.
Connecting with vocalist/bassist Heather Eaton and drummer Sam Russel, Underwood is back, becoming 1/3rd of new London upstart indie rock trio Medium Love. Already demonstrating the band's capabilities, this month's debut EP Overcoming Shyness is an excellent step forward for this emerging group, containing particularly compelling songwriting from the UK underground and a distinct weave of transatlantic musical flavours.
Opening with 'Can't Go Back', the layering of distorted and acoustic guitar lines over the (slightly too quiet) sun-drenched cymbal splashes of Russel is as "summer-indie" as it gets. Purpose-built for cross-country road trips with the windows permanently rolled down, hearing a chorus of "I can't go back" punctuating the hook offers a satisfyingly warm optimism not at all far removed from the never-ending summer vibrations of a Circa Waves or a Dope Lemon. At times the vocal harmonies do skew a little flat, but that does very little damage to the tune's well managed paradox of aural happiness and the despondency of its lyrical construction.
A change of pace is offered immediately with 'Little Love', and again a welcome similarity to Dope Lemon's 2016 album Honey Bones is identifiable in their shared laid back aesthetics and gorgeously designed guitar riffs. Across octaves, the two guitar lines interlock wonderfully well, and provide 'Little Love' with the driving force that propels the track as Overcoming Shyness' clear highlight. The vocal harmonies between Underwood and former keyboardist Sophie van der Welle are excellent, exceeding a few of the teething problems on the first track, but again I just can't stress enough how much I *love* the guitar contributions on this single. 'Little Love' will feature on our monthly playlist of the best songs of the month - I love it lots.
'California T-Shirt' dispenses with the laid-back approach of its preceding track and embarks on a more driven tempo, while still staying true to the sunshine-rock that unifies this EP in tone. The guitars sound punchy, particularly as an effects-heavy lead tone emerges as the song progresses, reminding us at Slow Motion Panic Masters greatly of our love for Gengahr's LP Sanctuary that dropped back in January of this year. Before long however, we are transported to the closing track 'Sick Beautiful' led by (surprise) a piano!
This switch-up is really well executed. Swapping out the sunburst indie rock for the methodical and reserved emotive potential of this final track proves an adept ending to an EP, and delivers a project capable of a surprising amount of depth. While initially the four song EP might suggest a fairly simple structure of competent rock songwriting, beneath the veneer of unfettered road trip anthems there is a great deal to appreciate from Medium Love's debut release. The lyrics hold a consistently compelling resonance throughout, but they soar to a particular high with 'Sick Beautiful', and marks Overcoming Shyness as a really worthwhile experience from 2020's underground output.
Despite an expected roughness from the sound of the album, with a few vocal tracks feeling thin or even off-key this is a really enjoyable listen. I maintain that the drums could be heard better, but this was never intended to be some pristine Steely Dan exercise in audiophile satisfaction. What Medium Love have achieved with Overcoming Shyness is a provokingly interesting addition to 2020's underground catalogue. Flicking between anthemic car-stereo bursts of sunlight to soft introspection, this is a band that have put an excellent step forward. We can't wait to hear what comes next.
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Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based in South Wales.