Review: StevieRay Latham – Letters From Suburbia EP (2021)

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StevieRay Latham grew up surfing in the South West before moving to London to study Fine Art in 2011 where he first started performing live in folk clubs across the city. After graduating he released his debut album ‘Modern Attitudes’ followed by a further album ‘Winter in London’

His latest release, the self-produced ‘Letters from Suburbia’ completes a trilogy of EPs released over the past eighteen months. This collection follows the experimental indie ‘Suburbia’ and

the grittier ‘Nomads Of Industrial Suburbia’. This singer songwriter is quickly making himself a name with his distinctively dark, melodic, art-folk compositions, with influences ranging from movie scores and sound-art to pre-war Jazz and existentialist literature.

This extended play opens with `Dionysus Blues` where Greek mythology and gothic blues collide on a reflective eight-minute odyssey. The song was inspired by the singer reading `The Birth of Tragedy` by Nietzsche at Art School some years back and found himself drawn to the tension that unfolds between the two Greek gods: Dionysus and Apollo. A solitary percussive drum leads up in before vocals and piano keys join. Along this journey some mournful trumpet and brooding organ drift in and out. The latter part has a plethora of harmonising vocals from people not so much joining in on the chorus but taking over the lead role. The last minute or so closes out with just the singer and a quietly picked guitar, which I have to say is stunning. We have a more garage rock vibe about `Gashouse` which is written about La Résistance (The French Resistance) but in such an unobtrusive way, it`d be hard to gather from the song. There`s a wonderful resonating guitar and subtle organ chords accompanying the singer on this retro type of number.

Title track `Letter From Suburbia` is a delicately picked reflective folk come love ode with some delicate harmonies and aching vocals. A track that grows when horns join in midway through, a reminiscence for a long gone youthful romantic passion. A quite melancholic ballad follows with `Don`t Make Me Love You In Vain` a quietly shared plea with shuffled drum, strummed guitar, tender vocals, and sweet harmonies, for the narrator`s adoration to be reciprocated by the object of their desire.

This extended play closes with `Transient Circles` an evocative spoken word piece that seems to relate a tale of unrequited love. The addition of a church organ and church bells adds to the joyful atmosphere of this quite mournful piece.

`Letters From Suburbia` is a sort of release that with seep into your subconscious. StevieRay Latham has surrounded himself with some gifted musicians who form The Nomads Of Industrial Suburbia with Matt Street (Trumpet), Simon Murfet (Drums) and Laura Porter (Percussion, Backing Vocals) and have the ability to unearth this guy`s wealth of talent. There have been a number of comparisons made with other artists but to me he seems to be of a similar mould to the late and sadly missed Elliot Smith.

I find it hard to believe that this accomplished artist hasn`t come onto my radar before and i`m too long in the tooth to make predictions as to how his career will pan out but have to say that this release is a sheer delight and has made me explore his back catalogue with a passion I’ve not felt for some time.

Rating 9 /10

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