Newcastle born and Melbourne based music producer James Crooks has co-written with artists such as RÜFÜS DU SOL, Bliss N Eso and Thelma Plum. Having spent the past two years channelling his expert song-writing into a singular body of work, his debut EP Blame My Soul boasts six catchy yet varied pop songs.
Crooks’ EP features vocal tracks from Tyne-James Organ, Paige IV, BOI (who featured on L D R U’s 2017 track ‘Me’), Sam Phay, Dives and Coast & Ocean. This impressive line-up of collaborations is the biggest strength of the EP, giving it a diverse sound.
While firmly grounded in the simplicity of the pop genre, Crooks introduces elements of electronica and house to give these infectious songs a dance-ready energy. The opening ‘LaLaLa’ begins with some rock instrumentation, with a guitar and drum kit teasing the audience before the bright and happy chorus bursts forward.
From the second the piano darts at the listener in ‘Naturally’ it’s clear that this is a more emotional track than the others on the EP. Paige IV’s beautiful vocals add to this, with her deep tale of a failed relationship establishing an overwhelming amount of forlorn in the repeated line “I just pack my things and leave”.
The next track ‘Break You’ carries the emotion of the piano and soft vocals, this time from male singer Sam Phay, but increased the tempo with a heavier beat. This gives ‘Break You’ the emotion of ‘Naturally’ but with the kinetic energy of titular track ‘Blame My Soul’. BOI features on ‘Made Me’, with her vocals souring over some deeper bass and trap inspired beats. As a result, the track has a the earthy and primal tones that are synonymous with bass music, with a bright guitar riff bringing it back into pop so it’s not out of place. The final track ‘Move On’ is powerful, filled with melancholy. This sadness comes from the vocal harmonies of Coast & Ocean, backed by a minimalist accompaniment in the verses and a strong beat in the chorus.
The entire EP explores themes of heartbreak and failed relationships. The complexity of the music draws on the textured emotions that come with such topics. As a debut piece of work, James Crook’s Blame My Soul EP shows that practice and time, in this case Crook’s career and the two years he spent on the EP, pays off.