A line often trotted out when a celebrity dies is that we’ll never see their like again. So it was when Leonard Cohen passed away in 2016. Apparently, nobody said this to Catch Prichard, an up-and-coming indie singer-songwriter from the U.S. On his latest EP, Utter Disbelief, he aims to recapture the magic Cohen conjured with his poetic lyrics and sensual baritone.
Unfortunately, Prichard doesn’t quite manage it. The music he writes is a pleasant mix of Americana and indie folk on a synth-kick. The gentle guitars of "You’re The Worst" would fit neatly into most of Iron & Wine's back catalog, for example. The use of a Mellotron adds a sublime melodic line that makes the listener feel as if they were floating, or it would if the drum machine weren’t a distracting tick punching through that floaty melody.
The same applies to "In The City," a dreamy melody from the Mellotron would evoke a perfectly oneiric atmosphere for his vocals to feel truly sensual. Instead, the use of the drum machine is again a distraction, insistently puncturing the melody rather than allowing it to fly on its own. This leads to the main problem with the EP. Prichard relies too heavily on the drum machine and Mellotron, and not enough on his own guitar work. His previous EP, Eskota, shows he can play the guitar quite well, so to ignore it in favor of synthetic sounds does his music a disservice. Live instruments would give the melodies he creates a richer timbre overall, as evidenced on "I Never Dream." The piano and guitar work together to conjure a sound that’s very reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen in the late ‘80s. More like this, and the EP would be a much more exciting prospect, elevating Prichard to the level of contemporary musicians like Barns Courtney.
The one song on which there is no drum machine is album closer "Lover’s Whim." The piano melody is simple and romantic, and when the Mellotron kicks in towards the end, the listener begins to feel as if they are floating away on a dream. The synth provides a gorgeous, almost wistful ambiance and is blended well with the piano. The lyrics also contribute to that romantic atmosphere; “So come meet me, in the middle of the sea, while the world keeps turning.’ It’s easy to picture the two lovers, adrift on an ocean of love, forever and comfortably alone in their bliss."
Check out some older work from Catch Prichard with his music video for "Eskota."
However, for all that the melodies are pleasant when the drum machine isn’t kicking things over, Prichard’s vocal style is also a problem. Cohen’s baritone was a husky voice, closer to spoken word than true singing. Prichard seems to be trying to emulate that, but instead produces a vocal style that feels overworked and fake. He mixes that husk with the kind of over-exaggerated vowels that Lily Allen and Kate Nash made popular. It doesn’t jar with the music, but it doesn’t really work either. If that’s his natural singing voice, then so be it, but it sounds so unreal. Going for a more realistic vocal style, if possible, would add a richness that would lift his music to much greater heights.
Taking inspiration from your heroes is one thing, but emulating them entirely is another. Catch Prichard can make some pretty melodies but needs to stop trying to so closely pay homage to his influences in order to grow as an artist. Utter Disbelief is far from terrible, but it is far from a memorable piece of work either.
Utter Disbelief Track Listing:
01. Going Crazy
02. Tangled Grace
03. You’re the Worst
04. In The City
05. I Never Dream
06. Lover’s Whim
Run Time: 27:00 Release Date: February 22, 2018 Record Label: Devise