This is a recent review of my upcoming EP ‘The Leaves on The Sleepers’. You can hear some of the tracks from this EP by liking my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NathanBeesleyMusic) or heading over to my Soundcloud (https://soundcloud.com/nathan-beesley-music). Thanks for reading!
The Leaves on the sleepers EP – Nathan Beesley
Track by track review –
1. Prologue (The Likes of Us)
2. The Leaves on the Sleepers
3. Somewhere in the Middle
4. Darling, That’s Just Me
5. The bridge
6. Where the Heart is
7. Summer, 2011
8. Ode to Those Who Survived
1. The amicable coloratura of Beesley’s guitar picking usher in the first track of The Leaves on the Sleepers EP, Prologue (The Likes of Us), which sets a pleasant tone… if only for a moment. The single modulation to a minor chord, ten seconds into this opening track, isn’t enough to prepare us for the wretchedness that shall follow throughout this induction and then in the seven individual heartbreaks to come thereafter. And that’s really what this brilliantly, bone-achingly miserable EP offers: a little collection of modern tragedies, made easier to stomach by the dulcet quality of their performance, Beesley’s sweet voice, guitar and strings.
“Those who can’t write poetry write sad acoustic songs instead”
2. The first track proper, the eponymous Leaves on the Sleepers, is a stellar song. An infectious guitar melody carries the well-articulated story of a suicide and its transcendent remnants, and a well-placed strings piece accompanies the refrain, “I’m like Dorian Gray as she begs me to stay; like the leaves on the sleepers will wither and fade”, thereby establishing a powerful image that shall pervade the EP as a whole. A stranger’s death, woven almost indistinguishably into Beesley’s own experiences, provides this track with an epic, Frank Turner-esque epiphany to end it: “It’s about dirty glances, and half-drunken passes, and fleeting romances, and taking chances; this brief existence has a curious persistence and I know how I’m going to spend mine”.
3. In case we had got the wrong impression from the ecumenical nature of the last track, Beesley opens Somewhere in the Middle with “It’s half past nine and I’m already drunk as hell, and the distance to my bed is looking daunting”, to remind us what this EP is all about. This bleak portrayal of loneliness and alcoholism sobers us (ironically enough) and re-establishes the theme of the Prologue: that of numbing hopelessness and pain. Beesley’s vocals are excellent in this track – especially in the final section of the poem, when he belts out the words: “I’ll grab my smokes from the top drawer and then melt in to the dawn, until I’m just the tap of shoes on the pavement; I’ll read my books in every street, until my blood is just caffeine, and the last seventeen years are just a memory”.
4. In the next song, the devastatingly honest piece that is Darling, That’s Just Me, Beesley adopts a raw, base-note thumbed strumming pattern and lets his lyrics make the impression; he confesses: “it’s a disease that makes me so selfish, stop blaming me; it’s been hurting my friends, my mum and my family, since I was only fourteen… but darling, that’s just me.” From the open naming of ‘Emily’, through admissions of his own suicide-attempts, and finally to the self-portrait of “Another middle-class boy: he’s just white, rich and bored, that’s all”, this track is all about candour; it is haunting, disturbing, and wonderfully dark. Regarding his suicide note, indeed, Beesley recalls a police officer telling him, with the blackest of humour: “This note is a masterpiece, you’re quite the poet, but beauty’s no good when you’re dead.”
5. The Bridge really is the stand-out track of this EP. Combining an innovative chord progression with a superb strings composition – and some almost farcically tragic sentiment in the lyrics – Beesley crafts a truly excellent song. Whether you consider the Facebook reference in the first verse, “the empty space beside your name won’t turn to green”, or the shattering exposition of domestic abuse later on, “the neighbours reach for the remote when they hear her scream”, to be the crowning moments, there can be no denying that this song is some of the artist’s best work.
“How could you let me love you and then save none for yourself? Those long walks up to the bridge won’t set you free. Yes, if you got out of my bed and spent a day inside my head, you would quake at what it’s like to think like me”.
6. In a somewhat more folky, anthemic and even abrasive song about home, Beesley takes a trip down memory lane for Where the Heart is. Recalling a past relationship which was cast against the backdrop of his hometown, he returns to find how the remnants of experience have reshaped this familiar setting forever: “Now the white lines become one as they ascend into the sky, like roads already taken; tracing my footprints, I find: these roots suffocate me and this Eden is overgrown; and now I lie here where you left me, reaping the whirlwind I’ve sown”. It is an accessible number, studded with resonant nostalgia and the Pavlov side of association.
7. Summer, 2011, the penultimate track on this EP, is the volta, the twist, the outlier. Reeking of youthful sentimentality, the not-long-outgrown teenager within Beesley is given his curtain call. With more than a slight nod to his omnipresent idol, Elliott Smith, the opening verses’ multi-tracked, gossamer-thin vocals, coupled with a fragile falsetto, serve to strip about ten years away from the cynical troubadour so far conveyed. And all in the name of what? Well, love, of course. Swelling from diffident discovery, “the blindfold’s been ripped from my eyes and from my heart”, to utter euphoria, “we’ll summon gods and part the sea”, Beesley invokes, with an uncanny authenticity, that sick-to-the-stomach sensation of first love’s affliction, with which we are all familiar.
8. Set up, as we have been, for a little hope from this EP, we might be a little disappointed to hear Beesley’s claim that “the most frightening thing of all is: there’s no-one in this world who gives a shit” in the first few lines of the final track, Ode to Those Who Survived, whose opening guitar melody owes a lot to Get Cape Wear Cape Fly. Indeed, for three verses we are talked through images more akin to the first six tracks: a personal suicide attempt, a guilt-inducing abortion and the truth of a bulimic athlete. But, reminiscent again of Elliott Smith and his concept of guitar-interludes as ‘journeys’, we have a bass-note-dropping outro which declines and finally ascends to poke its little, optimistic head up, just like the lyrics of the song do, and just the EP as a whole does, at the very last moment:
“Just remember this, when you’re forced to decide: you can always make the choice to survive.”