‘Freckle Season’ by Orla Gartland [EP Review]

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The first things that surprised me about learning to play guitar was how it changed the way I listened to music.

Sure, I’d always been aware that there was guitar in songs but I didn’t truly listen to the instrument until I had a basic idea of how it worked.

This goes for other instruments too but guitar was the first one I learned and it was an odd realization that I hadn’t been really listening to the songs I loved so much.

I’ve been listening to Gartland’s music for quite a few years now and I never get tired of her funky guitar riffs.

There’s something simultaneously delicate and chaotic about her music that I find enchanting–that and she has a beautiful voice.

Play that Funky Music White Girl

So let’s dig into her guitar a bit because I think it’s worth showcasing.

Her songs tend to be more bass-heavy than I usually encounter in indie pop music. It’s actually why Heavy has a wonderful contrast in the album–because there is a lack of bass on this track (but we’ll get to why this song is amazing later).

The opening track, Did It To Myself, has this wonderful moment when the chorus comes in and the bass kicks in with a force. There’s something choppy to how Gartland has her bass riffs–like there’s this flicking motion to it (the drums help with this too).

There’s a good moment in Oh GOD when the bass mirrors the vocal melody that’s a lot of fun too and adds to the motion of the song.

Which I think gets at why I enjoy the bass–and guitar in general–in these songs. There’s a sense of movement to all of them even though they’re not “dance” songs or have a lot going on instrumentally. There’s a playfulness to the instruments that creates this need to move and connect with the stories being told.

Warmth and Sincerity

One of the things that makes Gartland’s music feel so warm and intimate is the DIY feel that it has–and I mean that in the more flattering way possible. Take the song Heavy where you can actually hear the keys on the piano and how hard they are being played given the sound made when they’re released.

Also, take the fun way Gartland approaches the vocals. I’m thinking specifically in Oh GOD where she puts all this emotion and dread into the title line, adding a bit more personality each time.

Part of this has to do with having dry vocals for most of the record. A lot of the time musicians will put layering and reverb onto their vocals to fatten them up or to create a certain atmosphere but not doing that also creates a certain affect on the listener. It feels very intimate and close, like you’re sitting a couple feet away from them as they sing.

You can really feel that intimacy in the last song, New Friends, where it’s Gartland’s vocals and a guitar.

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m honestly not that big of a fan of Indie… anything really.

I think it’s become a bit gimmicky in the last half decade or so. It’s one of those words we, as listeners, associate with music that has been morphed into a specific sound instead of someone who creates music independently (kind of like how alternative music has become a certain sound instead of being music that is alternative to pop music–but that’s a rant for another time).

But what I like about Gartland’s music is that it feels the way Indie music should–whether she had a studio behind it. I feel like she is singing to me in the same way my friends and I share music we’re working on to each other. And it still captures some of that whimsy too.

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