EP: The Dawdler – Sign of Growth review

By Phil Scarisbrick

The perpetual darkness that comes with winter is perhaps its most affecting characteristic. Not only are the days shorter, but the sun must grapple with the abundant, dense clouds to be seen during this diminishing daytime period. It is not only the literal darkness that surrounds us during these months, but also the emotional impact it can have on your mind and soul. It can suffocate you, and leave you grappling for air in the midst of an emotional smog. It is in these times that we must grasp onto any moments of beauty and joy we can find.

The Dawdler – AKA Tyneside’s John Edgar – is well aquainted with the darker sides of life. They are the coarse thread that binds together his new EP, Sign of Growth – as he touches on subjects such as death, loneliness, grief and alcoholism – with the resulting set of songs transcending their heavy influences to create something that is an achingly beautiful exercise in catharsis.

Lava Lamps is a tribute to a close friend, Ewan, who took his own life five years ago. Despite coming from a place of regret, it allows Edgar to orate this contrition in a soaring falsetto that evokes an image of life, rather than death. The looping, picked guitar and strings offer a just-stable-enough backdrop to hold the whole thing together. While Crocodile is an epic, ever-building behemoth, that starts out as trickle at the top of the mountain and ends up as a raging, endless torrent racing towards the abyss of the horizon.

Given the time of year the EP is being released in, Dark Clouds feels like a very apt song to encapsulate the mood of the season. In actual fact though, the song’s melodies evoke joy and happiness rather than melancholy, before the EP’s closing track offers a plea in its title – Don’t Get Blue – however, its mood feels like something more akin to resignation than hope for change. That is, until the final flourishes of a lone cello fade into a vocal and piano that offer one final act of resistance.

Edgar’s work may have arrived shrouded in darkness, both in its themes and release date, but it is impossible not to be affected by its beauty. So accomplished is the writing on display that it will stay with you. Not just because of the heaviness of the subjects covered, but, more importantly, because of the profound weight of the light it emits.

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