I Talk to Strangers is a British alternative rock group who have been operating on a small scale for a while now. Their first record, a self titled EP, was released around two weeks ago and I was fortunate enough to attend the album launch at the Cavendish Arms in Stockwell. The band is comprised of vocalist (and former Healthy Music Obsession contributor), Georgina Daniels and Alex Barnett who sings as well as plays rhythm guitar.
The EP itself is comprised of six, smartly put together, classic rock inspired songs. It’s easy to tell who the band’s influences are, which is no bad thing. The heavy Fleetwood Mac influences go a long way towards shaping the band’s style, but what really sets I Talk to Strangers apart from other groups is their attempts at genre hopping. This is particularly apparent on the album’s clear centrepiece, ‘The Tales of Tortuga’, a song which starts as little more than a well crafted rock song, before taking a sudden, but welcome, stylistic detour towards British folk music and sea shanties. This is done through an instrumental breakdown half-way through the track where emphasis is placed on a new rhythmic feel and a set of instruments which combines clean rhythm guitar, ukulele and distorted lead guitar to create an intriguing texture to the song. This song is without a doubt the record’s highlight and is evocative of the album’s beautiful, hand drawn cover art which depicts a burning pirate ship sailing into the night.
One of the most striking things about this record is Georgina’s vocal performance. When talking about a band’s first record (especially when they are still relatively unknown), it is important to point out the areas which contain the most potential. Georgina’s singing on the EP is polished, powerful and raw with emotion, and is likely to be what eventually allows I Talk to Strangers to stand out from similar groups. The other element of this record that has great potential is the inventive song writing. Many bands start their careers writing very samey music, with very little to distinguish each song from the last. I Talk to Strangers, on the other hand, is able to make each song sound entirely unique, and this, I would contend, is due to the band members’ eclectic tastes. This is particularly apparent when comparing two of the most endearing tracks on the record: ‘You Rattle the Stars’ and ‘Hopelessly (In Love With You)’. The latter is a jaunty, lilting song about a love struck protagonist which feels very homely and self contained. The former, is a sprawling, large scale, epic of a song, which adds piano and cello to the mix of guitars, bass and drums that are already present in the band’s line-up (the song also happens to be inspired by Treasure Planet – my favourite film – so that was a sizeable bonus to my listening experience). Whilst I would suggest that this variety in style is partly due to the band not quite yet pinning down their sound, it does make for a consistently surprising and enjoyable listen.
I will admit that, on my first listen, I didn’t quite get the direction of the record (though I did enjoy the individual songs immensely). This changed instantly, however, when I had the privilege of seeing the band live. The consistent through-line of these compositions is the band’s electrifying delivery and energy, and I think this highlights the EP’s only significant problem – the production. Whilst the production is clean and accurate for the most part, its issue is that it doesn’t capture the full extent of the band’s energy. I would highly recommend that you give I Talk to Strangers – EP a listen, but I would also suggest that, if you ever get the chance, you must see them live, because understanding the context of these songs in a live setting, turns this EP from a solid debut, into a fantastic first record that is brimming with potential.