The breath of life piano-pop needed.
It’s been an all-too-frequent problem as of late that artists are embracing the piano as a core instrument in a fundamentally boring way. Keys themselves seem to carry a stigma of being a bit dull or disinteresting, reserved by candlelit balladry that limps along or music fit for slipping into a coma to. Then occasionally there’s a brief glimpse of hope for the shuffling sounds, such as Frances or – now- Amanda Markley.
Markley’s latest offering, a self-titled EP, is fifteen minutes of music that works to dislodge the burden of bore from keys. The dark and intense intro of opening track Fire sets the tone for what is to follow: an expanse of soundscapes that put the piano at the heart of everything and build around it. As a result, Fire ends up becoming a winding indie-pop number with a mix of high-toned drums, atmospheric guitars and deep bass stabs.
While the electropop feel of Monster might give the impression that this sound will continue indefinitely, Markley soon dips into a song that most fits the typical view of pianos: Cold. A tender ballad that rings with bubblegum pop, it strays narrowly wide of traditional piano territory. Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it demonstrates Markley’s ability to play dangerously close to that sound but still make it engaging and interesting. The revisited version of the track which is tagged onto the end of the EP shows that she is very aware of this, as she strips it back to the archetypal ballad sound. It’s the lighter-in-the-air moment of the EP, standing at stark contrast to the rest of the release and being just what many may come into the EP anticipating.
What the Amanda Markley EP demonstrates is that Markley herself is versatile and self-aware, using an increasingly undervalued instrument in a manner that fits seamlessly among trip-hop beats and Imagine Dragons-esque summertime indie guitars. Markley is an artist of pure fascination, defying expectation while simultaneously feeding familiarity. With an EP as consistently powerful as this, it won’t be long until everybody begins embracing this fascination.