From the title alone, we can already assume this debut EP explores the setting of the (not so) sunny summers in England. And British culture is heavily laced throughout each and every song; with moments mirror The Jam and The Specials. Despite these comparisons to these archetypal British bands, this lad from Hertfordshire is in his own lane; this EP is consistently captivating, with tracks that rhyme with one and other, as well as display versatility in Downing’s songwriting.
English Summers starts very quickly out the blocks, with the already released single In Reality. It’s big, bracing, and the perfect way for us to understand where this EP is going. The song includes clever lyrics, and some subtle references to Town Called Malice by The Jam, who Cian is clearly so fond of. The rhythm of this song bobs along with a playful bassline and some chugging rhythm guitar; oozing a cool effortlessness.
The momentum keeps on rolling with Turning Around. This opens very nicely too – with a fuzzed up guitar and a lot of rhythm that is impossible not to bop your head to. On top of this, the vocal performance is incredible – with a higher key than the preceding track, Downing shows the depth and versatility of his voice. The star of the show in this single for me is the menacing guitar riff that interrupts the vocals every so often, and each time it is introduced, it just gets cooler and cooler.
After the high paced first two tracks, the mood is more chilled in the third track of the EP: Aesthetic Compassion. With it’s slower tempo, Cian shows off his adaptable abilities. This also allows him to show his diligence and skill on guitar. The song features a wah wah solo that is executed with taste, which further adds to the laid back attitude that this track exudes.
Now we reach the fourth track of the album, Downing mixes it up again, with an acoustic track That Mutual Feeling. Once again, this track is soft and moody. The lyricism is contemplative and heart wrenching at times, and this is reflective in the choice of chord progression, which feels as wistful as the vocal performance. The softness of the acoustic guitar lets his voice breathe more in the mix, and this stripped back tune once again shows just how impressive the tone of his vocals are.
Nevertheless is the cherry on top of this beautiful EP. For the second time, we are treated to a tune that is driven by acoustic instruments. The song is very bit as sweet as That Mutual Feeling, as they flow so well together. Once again, Downing is contemplative about societal issues, as he questions authority in his brilliantly unique way.
The EP is now concluded, but I still want more – I cannot wait to hear what Cian Downing has in store for us next. But in the meantime, I’ll be playing English Summers.