Album Review: To Kill a King – Exit, Pursued by a Bear EP

By on Monday, 3rd November 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

To Kill A King Exit EP coverLondon-via-Leeds quintet To Kill a King are hard at work on their second studio LP and making preparations for their recently announced March 2015 UK tour, but to keep our appetites whetted, they have in the interim released a new EP titled ‘Exit, Pursued by a Bear’. Comprising 5 tracks, ‘Exit, Pursued by a Bear’ is more of a mini-album than an EP, though I suppose that distinction is rather overly specific. The tracklisting seems to be carefully thought out, more like a full album than the pastiche quality of many EPs, beginning with the striking single ‘Oh My Love’, and alternating between extremes of style and tempo before ending on the subtle sentimentality of ‘So My Friends Want to Marry’.

Lead singer Ralph Pelleymounter’s singing voice is a mesmerising combination of Michael Hutchence and Matt Berninger, capturing both the sultry sensuality of the former and the brooding introspection of the latter. Guitarist Grant McNeil and keyboardist/producer Ben Jackson provide an almost orchestral sense of sonic drama behind the vocals, while rhythm section members Josh Platman (bass) and Josh Taffel (drums) maintain a propulsive forward motion throughout the EP.

‘Oh My Love’ finds Pelleymounter’s dramatic lyrics and hypnotic vocal timbre struggling through the insistent wail of the backing voices. His opening line is an instant hook, “penny for your thoughts, I’m saving up to buy them all”, and its metaphor continues into the second verse, “line them up and let them loose, incarcerated red balloons”. Pounding drums and synthesised brass allow the chorus to soar above the rest of the song despite its heavy lyric, “oh my love, we’re destined to demise”.

After a brief respite in the form of a lilting and uplifting guitar ballad called ‘Breathe’, the tempo picks up again in the percussive, piano-driven track ‘The Constant Changing State of Us (Gold)’. Oddly distorted vocals at the beginning of the song build into the anthemic repeated chorus, “if you hold on too tight, then you will lose sight” before Pelleymounter intones the final line, “you know what I mean when I say love will change”.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0_glXU9qCI[/youtube]

‘Love is Coal’ gradually evolves from a declamatory, almost spoken, vocal line backed by a solo electric guitar into a dynamic arrangement of racing percussion and vibrant backing vocals. Pelleymounter’s first delivery of the chorus “love is not like diamonds, love is coal to keep you warm” is stark and hypnotic, followed by the introduction of a slow, visceral heartbeat in the rhythm section, which grows more insistent until after the second chorus, when it shifts into high gear and drives the song to a close.

Final track ‘So My Friends Want to Marry’ is a jazzy piano ballad that reminded me, surprisingly, of John Hiatt’s ‘Have a Little Faith in Me’. The sudden change of tone and flavor is slightly startling, but Pelleymounter’s vocals here are as convincingly soulful as at any point on the EP, especially in the heartfelt lyric “I hope you find some peace, whatever the hell that means”.

If ‘Exit, Pursued By A Bear’ were a full-length vinyl LP, the faint curiosity roused by ‘So My Friends Want to Marry’ would mark the perfect place to flip the record over and see what the other side might hold. The EP feels very strongly like the beginning of an album proper, both in its sense of sonic continuity and its thematic variety. If To Kill a King continue writing and recording in this vein, their second album will surely shape up to be a fine listen.

8/10

‘Exit, Pursued by a Bear’, the latest release from London’s To Kill a King is available now, both digitally and on 10” vinyl, via Xtra Mile Recordings (buy it here).

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