It’s been a miserable day, so what better way to brighten it up by listening to a stellar set of four songs which are even more miserable? I Guess This Is Progress is the debut EP from Felix Saunders, a man who we know little about but who hails from Scotland’s Western Isles, the EP recorded in Black Bay Studios in The Outer Hebrides. Saunders says of the disc that, “It’s the sum of my mental health, failed relationships, trying to survive on jobs that barely pay you, and feeling isolated from the world”.
His summary might give some indication of the lyrical content but it doesn’t address the forlorn beauty of the songs and a performance which is truly captivating. The closest comparison that comes to mind is that of Vic Chesnutt although there’s also a slight touch of the early Go Betweens in the arrangements.
Hope And Faith has a faint glimmer to it, the fading light of fluorescent stars stuck on a bedroom ceiling, as Saunders sings of being a “an astronaut in my own mind, floating around in dead space.” A plaintive acoustic guitar strum and pearlescent keyboards drift through the song allowing it a fine somnambulistic sense. It would be nice to report next an uplift of mood but Sinking Fast, if anything, plumbs the emotional depths. The arrangement is more claustrophobic in a song, which might be seen as cry for help, the singer treading water and anticipating water filling his lungs.
King Of Nothing returns to the crepuscular sounds of the opening song although, midway through this hymn of despair, guitarist Pete Fletcher plays a short Robert Fripp like solo. Lyrically, Saunders flays himself. “I’m the Harley Quinn of hate, I’m the jesters in the ballroom, I’m the king, the king of nothing. I’m the disaster in the sky, the feeling you can’t shake.” The song is quite a gorgeous listen despite the nihilism in the words. Something Waltz closes the disc with a recollection of romance which is finely balanced between hope and despair. His darkness -“The devil horns only I can see” – is in the way, but at the close of song he is hoping that his partner is “Waltzing all alone in the rain. Must of been dreaming ’bout you and me.”
Four short songs doused in misery. The day is starting to look up.