Review by Joey Stoate
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With his second E.P. Replacements, Cambridge- / Leeds-based Michael Robshaw strives to expand on his repertoire of indie-rock inspired acoustic material. After months of teasing and an impressive performance on Leeds Local Radio, Mike will unleash his new offering on the 17th of February. However, does Replacements deliver for Robshaw?
Straight off the bat it’s clear that Mike has a clear understanding of his genre, pulling off the almost ethereal-like, effortlessly floating soundscape many amateur artists of his ilk struggle to perfect. From the Gaslight Anthem-esque introduction of first track, My Friend Called Jai, to the ivories tinkled throughout Nine Lives, the E.P. captures that acoustic environment brought to mind by artists such as Frank Turner and his band The Sleeping Souls.
With soft instrumentals and even smoother vocal ability, the songs found here flow wonderfully, despite being a little paint-by-numbers in certain sections. To illustrate, To Wake Not Feeling Guilty features one of the most interesting opening lines of any song on the release, incorporating a darker sound in it’s riffs and running with it throughout the track, whereas a track like When I Say could arguably be seen as more generic, shiny acoustic fodder we see every day, despite a strong delivery.
Writing wise, each track here stands alone as it’s own three to four minute experience, working as a perfect encapsulation of concise acoustic rock. Lyrically, Mike puts in a good showing with memorable sentiment, and the musical accompaniment features catchy melodies and sharper-than-expected tonality, often performing deeper than expected.
One of my biggest gripes with the E.P., however, comes with Robshaw‘s vocal delivery. Whilst it can’t be argued that he has an incredibly silky, impressive voice, this proves to detract from the experience in several tracks. Whilst the aforementioned When I Say & Nine Lives are both perfect examples of Mike‘s delivery suiting the proceedings to a “t”, tracks like My Friend Called Jai suffers from an almost diabetic, overly gentle set of pipes. His soft tone contrasts a little too far with scattergun stabs of distorted guitars laying in the background, and this could well turn some people off, creating a somewhat jarring listening experience.
As somebody not frighteningly familiar with the genre, Michael Robshaw‘s Replacements has impressed me greatly. An acute understanding of what makes acoustic rock so great and strong songwriting ability allow Robshaw‘s talent to shine through a few minor issues, and when all is said and done this E.P. is a collection of fairly memorable music that I’ll be playing a few more times once I’m finished with this review, and that’s saying a lot.