Soul, poetry, punk? My brain’s whirring away, trying to piece together how that combo could possibly sound, before pressing the ‘play’ button on this new EP I’m being served on Spotify… But props to the streaming platform’s algorithm — they know me well. Too well.
This joyful four-track EP from VC Pines — AKA Jack Mercer — has grit to it, but real clarity, too. His raw vocals are powerful, so much so, they’re only one-upped by the roll call of achingly cool brass instruments that underpin these songs.
The EP-titled opener, ‘Concrete’, meshes soulful melodies with old-school trumpets and trombones, and it surely wouldn’t be amiss in a buzzy jazz club. But, for me, it’s the second track, ‘Smoke Without Fire’, that’s the standout. It’s unapologetically Al Green in its main melody (spin it now and you won’t quibble with that statement. Could it actually be a sample?), and the lyrics are simple and honest. Mercer is getting a lot off his chest and it’s the instrumental garnishes that whip the song up into an unquestionable winner.
‘See You Soon’ retains the alt-soul style, with a steady, hip-hop-esque beat. This one’s been seeing a lot of traction on Spotify it seems, too — and that’s more than fair. It’s uber-catchy, which is quite easily the driver behind it doing so well.
Rap fans will massively dig the beat behind the EP finisher, ‘Compared to Someone Else’. It has a gentle pace, which makes it rude not to nod along to, but this is where you might recognise some of the soft punk elements you’ll read about during a quick Google of VC Pines.
So, all in all, these four tracks sit really nicely and fluidly together, but they’re also very, very palatable as standalone offerings.