Oncoming Clouds is the newest release from Adelaide based singer songwriter, Tom West. Released earlier in the year, the EP is full of songs which, in his own words, "are inspired by lost love and getting lost, they traverse the rocky and undulating ground between simple, whimsical, folk tunes and grand and moody soundscapes".
The aesthetic that West puts on show on Oncoming Clouds is one of simplicity. While I'm a fan of keeping it simple, Oncoming Clouds suffers in that it's a style of simplicity that we've all heard before. The recent fad around the gentle style of indie folk music (like Vance Joy, Mumford And Sons, Of Monsters And Men) is one that, in my opinion, has worn out its welcome. While there are admittedly some great releases in the vein, the fact that so many musicians seem to just be drawn to the sound makes it wear way, way too thin.
Having said that, if you're the kind of person who doesn't care about innovations or experimentation, or anything pretentious like that, Oncoming Clouds is going to be very difficult to dislike. Most of the 8 tracks on this EP, clocking in at a humble 26 minutes, has more than just a bare bones guitar and vocals.
The easy stand out among these is the opening track and lead single, 'Easy, Love'. The song seems to ring strangely in my ears - have I heard it before? Something about how the vocals and instrumentation all progress and coalesce at the chorus makes the track stand far above the others in terms of quality. Lyrically, it's not very interesting (There is an empty bed/inside an empty room/inside an empty house), but the delivery is top notch. The subtle strings, organs, and vocal harmonies over the endless acoustic guitar riff and drumming make this the highlight of the EP.
The title track closes the EP, and runs similarly to the opener. What begins as a simple traditional folk song with just vocals and guitar soon has instruments joining the fray one by one. They disappear just as fast as they show up, though, which seems to be a theme of the EP.
The tracks in between the aforementioned sadly don't live up to either. 'Icarus' plods along nicely like any old song that is sung and performed well, but doesn't stick in the mind like 'Easy, Love' does. 'There Is Nothing Else' is practically 'Easy, Love' but just not as good. None of the tracks offend the ears, but some suffer from being just a bit too 'samey'. Perhaps a five or six song EP would have been better. The songs may be better live, where West would be able to inject the songs with some raw emotion and style.
To see if that is the case, you can see Tom West performing live in the coming months. On August 20 he'll be opening for Jack Carty & Jordan Miller at the Grace Emily Hotel, and will be performing with Brisbane's Avaberée on September 6, also at the Grace Emily Hotel.