Throughout its 4 tracks, ‘I’ll Do It Alone’ — the new EP from Bournemouth-based indie rockers Set in Stone — is defined by its defiance. Touting acoustic guitars, gentle percussion, and passionate vocals, the band quite obviously dates their music somewhere between the high points of shoegaze and Britpop. It’s less ‘updating’ a retro sound, more backstage at a stripped-back Oasis set.
The title track is definitely the best on the record. As an opener, the absence of drums is an exciting, novel move that isolates the song in a still, solitary moment in time. The vocal performance is brilliant: dripping with gut and emotional commitment, it is a constant strength throughout the project. Bar a sprinkling of slightly too on-the-nose lyrics, it’s a great start to the EP.
Closer ‘Away from Me’ succeeds in similar areas, though its lyrics are more succinct and its lead guitars are prettier. Frontman Jamie Watts’ vocals are seriously impressive. He does a particularly good job on the strained held notes, hitting the sweet spot between pitch and tension to generate a powerful sound.
Yet it is during the EP’s intermediary cuts ‘Echo Decay’ and ‘It Ain’t Easy’ that some cracks begin to show.
Firstly, both host some almighty lyrical duds. The former feels at times like a game of Jam As Many Song Titles In As Possible (“You will never be alone… Blinded by the light / And it’s a beautiful day”), while both pack in some generally cliched throwaways that offer little by way of content but Hey They Sound Like Song Lyrics! (“Behind your cigarette / And who’s to blame?”; “Pleasure is pain / I can’t waste my time”). As such, these tracks feel sort of hard to believe in; a more personal, detailed lyrical approach could prove useful in future.
Moreover, the impact of the title track soon fizzles out when the lack of drums, mid-tempo rock feel, and long acoustic guitar breaks repeat themselves. A pattern has emerged — and while it may be a dreamy, evocative one at first, there’s only so long that it can remain dreamy or evocative without variation. What once seemed exciting artistic choices soon feel like the band just didn’t hire a drummer.
‘I’ll Do It Alone’ is an emotive, nostalgic record that strikes me as a great starting point for the band. If they consolidate their vocal and melodic strengths while adding a more consistent sense of character and diversity to their sound then it won’t just be their name but their upward trajectory that is Set in Stone.