With the death and rebirth of records, the extended play has gained and lost its momentum. No longer is it a place for bonus pieces, a project in of itself fashioned by the album cuts that never made it, but a compilation. There are only a few still championing, or were championing, the EP releases as standalone items. Richard Hawley and boygenius have assured listeners with their quality on those standalone releases that preceded and followed their respective albums. False Lights from the Land is an incredible example of that from Hawley, a sea shanty-circling album that relies on the ocean, a frequent topic of the Sheffield legend.
It goes far beyond that of sea-faring woes and troubles of course, but False Lights from the Land plucks Remorse Code from Truelove’s Gutter and uses it as a starting point. With Chichester-based Smoke Fairies joining Hawley on Shallow Brown, the second track of this EP takes a gospel-like Nick Cave approach. He had brushed shoulders with the Push the Sky Away singer before, but Shallow Brown marries the incredible Hawley style with that of enlightened, uplifting charm. Softly spoken and reliant on that additional vocal power, the ship-sailing shanties and reflective tone taken plants Hawley on those soaked docks with such power. Another of the many impressive deep cuts Hawley has. Shallow Brown is an essential example of his power as a vocalist, with barely an instrument on show throughout the acapella-like presentation is stunning.
Sliding its way into heavy-hitter and live name stay There’s a Storm Coming is a gorgeous treat. Its slow build and the form it takes live, with the guitar-heavy switch working just as well as the calmer tides here. Just four tracks to leave this considered impression is remarkable but it should be no surprise. Hawley has his roots in the extended plays of old, with the self-titled debut soon extended into a half-hour piece that may as well mark his first album. Revising that pocket of history does nothing, nor does ignoring EP closer The Ellan Vannin Tragedy, a booming sea shanty that successfully ties these tracks together. Mentions of the Isle of Man and the distant lands, the Irish Sea and the spectacle Hawley creates on EP closer The Ellan Vannin Tragedy, is a chilling rendition.
Those chills and awareness of setting are the key to False Lights from the Land. This never feels like a sea shanty piece, it feels like a Hawley piece, such it is that his name is now synonymous with quality. His work on False Lights from the Land is one of the last gasps of the EP format, released at a time when a four-track offering was futile. But still, Hawley is true to form and a consistent musician, releasing is his game and the warmth that comes from stormy nights is expected. False Lights from the Land is a special EP not just for how it respects a dead form of release in an era where vinyl is as popular as it gets, but because of how much consistent commitment there is to what Hawley hopes to release. Charming, delicate and dark. What a triple.