(4 / 5)
Many will know this guy, some will not. Well, if you do, you’ll not need convincing to read on and to grab a copy of Rhys Lewis’ new EP, “Bad Timing”, released this Friday (23rd February 2018) on the Decca label.
If he is a new name to you; trust me; the boy is giving us something pretty special if you like Premier Division pop-soul, and one of the best male voices in the UK in this current epoch.
Following a string of hit singles, millions of streams worldwide and sold-out UK and European shows, Rhys Lewis drops his four-track EP at the same time as announcing a European headline tour and securing a spot on the bill at South by South West Festival in Austin, Texas in March.
The EP features Rhys’ new single “Bloodstains”, which captures the emotions of a bittersweet relationship. He makes no secret that each song he writes is deeply personal to him; in this track we see him unravel a relationship that has turned sour and spiteful, yet he can’t stop craving it or wanting more.
The title track tells the story of meeting and falling in love with someone at the wrong time, while “Reason To Hate You” and an acoustic rendition of “Don’t Wanna Believe”, explore the heart-breaking truths of unrequited love.
The 26-year-old Oxford-born singer and multi-instrumentalist is on a real roll these last 12 months. Winning lots of new friends opening shows for JP Cooper and James TW on their European Tours, and selling out his own headline tour.
His previous release “Wish I Was Sober” was added to 11 international ‘New Music Friday’ playlists on Spotify and hit 750,000 streams in a month. Previous track “Be Your Man” was streamed a staggering one million times in four weeks. His debut track “Waking Up Without You”, soared to the No.1 spot on Spotify’s Viral Chart. Rhys has racked up a total of 20 million streams just one year after his first release. He must be doing something right…
Rhys penned his first song when he was just 18, and went on to play in covers bands before plunging into a solo career, giving up training to be a chef; providing his cautious parents -both teachers – with ample food for thought about their son’s perceived precarious career choice. But it looks likely he may have dished up a path to success for himself and eased their worries, thus far.
Lately, Rhys has spent time between studios in London, Nashville, Stockholm, LA and Berlin, which has allowed him to develop a maturity to his song-writing, fusing a rich soulful tone with a lyrical immediacy.
The title cut, “Bad Timing”, reminds me of a younger and rawer Chris Martin with its vocal timbre, not too far away from the hallmark of Coldplay in terms of quality and mainstream commercial accessibility. Cool song, sparse programmed-production, which throws the spotlight firmly on the vocal and the strength of the song writing.
It’s all there. On-trend sound, strong throaty vocal and a superb opening gambit for this debut EP. Second up, “Reason To Hate You”, slows down the pace and allows Rhys to passionately extend his range to the upper register, still with power and his tender and innate soulfulness.
Voice and under-stated electric guitar, again gives the guy absolutely no hiding place vocally. Not that he needs it. Props for such a commanding performance. Brave move, just vocal and light-of-touch guitar brush strokes – because that can end up sounding really under-produced; more like a demo rather than a finished track. But here it works perfectly.
This is getting very interesting indeed… It’s pretty intimate and that kind of ambience where the singer could well be singing just for you, in your front room. You could hear that proverbial pin drop. Holding the attention with his vocal instrument, from note one to the final breath of each song.
“Bloodstains”. Electro-pop, but with an edge. Nothing retro or 80s about it at all. Really cool cut, in fact. More falsetto, which Rhys delivers with ease and it adds good value to his work. Nice hook and a jolly “up” vibe about it. At 3.20, perfect choice for a single, and for my ears; has Radio 1, 2 and BBC 6 all over it.
The final track of the quartet, “Don’t Wanna Believe It”, is an impressive acoustic offering, the tale of adultery and the woman doing the dirty on the guy this time. A really classy soul meets jazz and pop flavour, and a bit of a groove.
The vocal is top notch, and has nods to the likes of Maverick Sabre, Paolo Nutini and Finley Quaye. But you could go even further back and tap into the likes of Bill Withers, Ritchie Havens and Gil Scott-Heron. Really powerful way to leave your calling card, as the closer here. No dips in energy or strength of material, or quality of the performance across this (far too short) EP. I wanted more! Whets the appetite for what is to come with the full album, due in the summer.
Get down to Ladbrokes, Coral or William Hill fast – my bet is Mr Lewis will have a big hit on his hands with that debut album in a few months’ time, if the rest of his stuff is as good as these four little gems are.
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’