Frederictonian turned Haligonian Kurtis Eugene seems to take his solo title pretty seriously—while he’s played in the odd band, he writes, records and produces his music all on his own, mostly from his brother’s farmhouse in Nova Scotia.
His EP, Old Rooms New Light, is at least partly a product of his usual process, while other tracks share their genesis with Christchurch in New Zealand. As he says in the album’s description, “the songs are the result of an extended period of reflection, dedication, and lots of love” and clearly a bit of globetrotting as well.
Fredericton’s enduring commitment to the classics feels like it’s on show with Eugene’s six-song sample, from wailing guitars that evoke The Beatles at their heaviest, folksy interludes that colour his more sedate numbers, and emotionally full vocals that stretch, soar and plunge over the tracks.
It’s a spinning throwback of an intro on “So Far,” before it mingles with a more urgent chorus and dabbles in a flurry of notes as it waltzes its way through the bridge.
There’s a modern arch to the chorus on “This Love” even as cool echoes evoke an older aesthetic. Experimental vocal cries and a startling drum transition drive the song into an aching, rocking finale as Eugene protests, “This love, this love, is not yours to find.”
That swaying motion is carried into “For What It’s Worth,” a striding, loving number that feels deceptively chill come the chorus’ repeating lines, “For what it’s worth, I’d give it all away to be with you someday.” It’s an almost jarring transition into the strong sounds coming out from “All Your Words Are Lies,” the harsh notes contrasting with Eugene’s soothing voice—a disruptive force that, in its own way, makes real the song’s betrayal.
“Every Stone” is again at ease—at least momentarily, before barely audible chimes contrast their peaceful notes with Eugene’s straining voice. The album’s eponymous closer marks the real denouement of a story that has built itself up, climaxed and—as Eugene takes stock—come away with far more wisdom than it started with.
Top Track: “Old Rooms New Light”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)