It is an increasingly rare occasion for a record to hit you like a ton of bricks upon the first listen. For Dublin teenager handsome eric, though, it seems an almost effortless achievement.
It might seem like one of the most blasé titles possible, but this latest release in handsome eric’s oeuvre of bedroom recordings, the oh, cool EP, is aptly named. On its surface this is an EP full of garage and shoegaze-style tracks drenched in reverb, boasting amusingly honest but grim descriptions of youthful hedonism (“My friends like when I pass out / give them more to joke about”, he expounds on ‘Mopiest Boy In Leopardstown’). But it is a more assured record than such a description might allow for, with musings that run deeper than vague social commentary.
Indeed, amidst the wavy, atmospheric bedroom lo-fi, and the rich, drawling vocals, are impressively jaded lines about drinking, friends, self-destruction and death. The record as a whole seems to encapsulate that spiralling feeling of being lost in your own head. “Three fucking months and all my songs are still about you” is the sort of strikingly beautiful, melancholy lyric that Stephen O’Dowd (the man behind the moniker) seems to specialise in. But these moments of dark romance are carefully hidden beneath the distortion and occasional bouts of whirring cacophony.
It’s that idea of youth as an exercise in acting, rolling smokes and getting drunk – “we’ll pretend that it’s alright / trashy on six cans of gold”, he confesses at one point. O’Dowd is hesitantly confronting those personal yet universal sadnesses and insecurities, whilst simultaneously hiding them, washing over them with gorgeous, echoey swathes of guitar and anecdotes of the techno club.
“I always hope you notice when I’m not alright” is the line on ‘Coast To Coast Will Never Be A Hype Track, Kevin’ that perhaps sums up oh, cool the best. The darling melodies and refreshing percussion make it easy to ignore, and that nonchalant title brings to mind trying to play off everything as not a big deal. But at its core, there is a lot about the confusion of youth and heartbreak on this record, even if it’s almost drowned out in the sound of fluid, grey-blue seascapes. And that’s part of this EP’s beauty. It shyly hides beneath something much bigger.
To say this is “cool” would be an understatement: this is a sublime little record for those growing pains. It’s honest and angsty and brims over with thoughts and sounds that don’t quite seem fully-formed, and it’s all the more delightful for it.