Review by Emily Smith
Inside This Silence is the latest EP from London-based singer-songwriter Lauren Ray. This EP is the follow-up to her 2016 album We Will Need Courage. On this new EP, Ray showcases her maturity and close attention to detail that makes the EP stand out among others. She triumphantly draws on relatable themes of love and pain while captivating the listener with her distinct approach to her soulful sound.
Building on this distinct sound is Ray’s warm, welcoming voice that wraps around the tracks on this EP. Her voice adds to the emotion in her songs, much to great effect. This is especially true with the beautiful harmonies she incorporates into some of the tracks. For instance, tracks like “Dull Ache” and “Black Wings” do this especially well. The harmonies in “Black Wings” occur during the bridge, and help emphasize the point being made (which is to keep going even if it hurts).
“This EP is four songs that all look at the unspoken or things we feel but may find hard to talk about; unspoken romantic interests, going through tough times and feeling like giving up, dealing with grief and rejection and feelings of struggle in the music industry. Lyrically I am most proud of the song Dull Ache on the EP because it was a labor of love with my songwriter collaborator Noraay- its a tough subject matter to tackle but we are both proud of it,” says Lauren.
In “Dull Ache,” the harmonies are between her and a male singer. This is especially effective, since the song is about breaking up with someone and trying to heal from the lack of their presence. Ray, for most of the song, focuses on the pain she feels, as expressed in lyrics like “Thought I knew myself/ Thought I knew pain/ Til that day when everything changed,” and “Now I lay healing in the room we used to dream in,” to emphasize the shift in perspective she has after the break-up. During the chorus, the male singer harmonizes with hers, suggesting perhaps he feels similarly. It’s these details that make this and the other tracks an engaging listen.
“Black Wings is the most removed from anything else I’ve ever written and it was born from a discussion I had with two other writers that day about how the music industry is so tough and a struggle most of the time but somehow we all still love it and we compared it to an addiction or unhealthy romantic relationship.I am really happy with all four songs and my only hope is that one (or all) of the songs resonates with people in some way,” comments Lauren.
Like how “Dull Ache” describes the pain of loneliness post-break-up, many lyrics in the tracks are fueled by heartache or some kind of hurtful experience. “Black Wings” is about being hurt time and time again by something, or perhaps someone, and still being drawn to it. The first lyrics are “Like a moth gone insane/ I will keep chasing the flame/ When the fire throws me back/ I’ll return to my wings all black.” Though she is experiencing pain, she knows she has to get through it somehow. Lyrics like “There are so many many days it hurts like hell/ But I’m the master of disguise and I’m wearing it well,” show that though she has to live with this pain, she nonetheless has to go forward.
A turnaround from “Dull Ache” and “Black Wings,” the song “Upstream” is the most positive one on this EP. After all this heartache and grief, Ray still has a bright outlook on the future, though the path to fully healing may not be so smooth. She sings, “I’m swimming upstream/ Got to do something/ I know this won’t be easy/ No one said it would be easy,” which reflects her determined attitude.
This EP, both in lyrics and instrumentation, is mature and has an old soul attached to it. Yet, it doesn’t sound dated – in fact, it has a very distinct, modern pop twist with its jazzy and bluesy influences. The track “Be A Man” especially has that jazz-infused sound that would sound perfectly at home in an upscale coffee house with its cool bass, guitar, rhythmic drums, and sensual vocals. “Black Wings,” kicks things off with muted acoustic guitar and backing vocals that take a slightly bluesy direction. It’s a very soulful, slow start to the track before the track gradually layers its sound with a more prominent drumbeat and the piano, which has been the star of the EP in terms of instrumentation.
The very lush instrumentation and vocal performances are due to the expert layering of sounds throughout this EP. The production makes it so these performances are especially eye-catching. The bridge in “Be A Man” especially showcases how good the production is, as the instrumentation and vocal harmonies come together in a way that’s certainly lush, but not overbearing. Similarly, in “Dull Ache,” the guitar sneaks its way into the track to add more depth to the instrumentation, which works extremely well. Overall, every performance is well executed on the EP.
Lauren Ray makes a powerful mark with this EP as she flawlessly blends several styles together, developing a distinct sound accompanying her meaningful lyrics.