reviewed by Kaitlin Ruether
After completing his debut album, SoHo, Shllw — the project name for young Ancaster musician Nicholas Cevallos — spent two years wrestling with tracks, re-recording, and in his words, “giving up and a bunch of other stuff”. The move that invigorated him? Putting down the guitar on which his previous tracks hinged and exploring new territory. His most recent release, a three song EP entitled Did It Ever Matter?, trades indie-rock for electronic R&B pop, but keeps the soul of the songs in an intimate space.
Shllw has a history of juxtaposing pensive lyrics onto more upbeat melodies, and Did It Ever Matter? pushes this even further. In only three songs, we have a strong sense of the artist’s own strife; the theme that ties the tracks together is fear. With vocals that eschew precision next to the polished synths on “Will It Ever?”, the sense of disconnect is made clear. “I’m scared but I wanna take a step outside / Of this tunnel but the light’s nowhere in sight,” Cevallos sings, then repeats the sentiment with a vocal distance on “Everything I Need”: “What would I do? If I knew how to scream and not how to speak / What would I say, this time to make me believe?”. In a turn that evokes a sense of growth, the final — and sparkling — track on the EP, “A Different Place to Stay”, ends with the line “I just wanted to be afraid.”
With Did It Ever Matter?, the tracks move from embracing a uniquely dreamy rawness to finding stride in compromise. “A Different Place to Stay” lilts in a direction closer to Shllw’s previous work, as though one by one, the pieces have clasped together, making the EP a successful tendril into new territory. If “A Different Place to Stay” is any indicator, this change mattered, and whatever comes next will be better than ever.
Top Track: “A Different Place to Stay”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)