by Jesse Popeski
On January 4th, The Middle Coast shared a good news/bad news post on social media. The good news was the release of a new EP, titled Encore, which they assure is the “best music we’ve ever made, hands down.” The bad news was that the band was going their separate ways. “The biggest problem is that the three of us are all strong creators,” wrote keyboardist Liam Duncan, explaining that the three musicians were shifting their focus to solo projects.
Encore consists of three songs recorded in Vancouver. The new songs lean more to the accessible pop and R&B side of their writing, with a knack for arrangements that build to a climactic ending, superb musicianship, and the common theme of relationship issues, with lyrics that cleverly deviate from the expected or cliche.
The opening track “Me Tonight” exemplifies the band’s patiently paced arrangements. From the sparse intro of Dylan’s voice and Liam’s keys, Roman tastefully elaborates on the drum part throughout the song. If one thing stands out as a development from past releases, it’s that all three songs on the EP have extremely catchy hooks, and the chorus of “Me Tonight” may be the most memorable. The band’s signature of balancing polished pop and raw rock n’ roll is displayed in the bright, electronic keyboards and layered harmony vocals that converse with the searing fuzz guitar in the spectacular Steely Dan tinged solo that concludes the song.
On the title track “Encore,” the contrast of funky guitar with atmospheric keyboard pads over a steady drum groove creates the most upbeat song on the EP. Roman sings the lead vocal, and where Dylan’s voice has a confessional quality, Roman’s is exuberant; “Encore” is the song you’re seen unreservedly belting along with in traffic.
The closer of the EP is the highlight, the devastating “Making Love in the Dark.” Though the title suggests a provocative slow jam, the sentiment is defeat: “You don’t want to see the face / of the heart that you’re about to break / so we’re making love in the dark.” The track pulls out all the stops: the perfect crescendo of the arrangement, the soulful blend of the vocal harmonies, Roman’s drum feature in the bridge that unleashes the climax of the final chorus, Liam’s ambient keyboard sounds contrasted with Dylan’s rhythmic guitar hooks, all serving the emotional vocal and lyric. One might go so far as to say it’s the best music they’ve ever made, hands down.
If you enjoy the EP, unfortunately you won’t be able to see The Middle Coast live until the reunion tour, but you can follow their solo projects: Dylan and Katie MacDonald, LIAM, and Roman Clarke are all performers at this year’s Festival du Voyageur.
Recommended if you like Gashlycrumb Tinies, Sundays at 9:00 pm on CKUW 95.9 FM.