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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Belt

EP REVIEW: Alex Nicol - Been a Long Year Vol.1

Sad quintet of haunting folk songs document a tough time for Montreal's Alex Nicol

Perhaps more suited to the colder months of the year, Alex Nicol’s debut EP, Been a Long Year Vol. 1, drips with melancholy and carefully arranged lyrics and instrumentation.

The EP is Nicol’s first collection of music since 2020’s debut album, All For Nada, and is largely influenced by the ensuing period of time where he’s lost friends, family and his job.

The pace of the five songs is generally slow and Nicol’s vocals, similar to Nick Drake’s and Anohni’s, are delicate over gentle acoustic guitar and an assortment of bass, drums, electric guitar, mellotron and farfisa.

Latest single ‘Eye for an Eye’ kicks off the record, with a Red House Painters-esque pace, and woozy guitar accompanying lyrics about systemic oppression. The personal is referred to with lyrics of: “now my body is weak, my limbs like cement, I can’t keep dancing without some sustenance”.

‘Fabricated Hedonist’ is perhaps the liveliest of the collection with a consistent drum beat and references to hedonism and debauchery. It’s on ‘Sit and Wait’ that you get the first explicit commentary on the trauma on the past few years, as Nicol surrenders himself to emotion, singing “let it all wash over you” and reminiscing with “we’re still dreaming of our home where we once ate”. It’s melancholic but strangely upbeat and hopeful.

Photo credit: Hamza Abouelouafaa

The Nick Drake comparison ramps up with ‘Hollywood’ – desolate verses lifted by a hopeful chorus, punctuated with Nicol lamenting what will never be: “I’ll never go to Hollywood, I’ll never be a star”. Aping Drake’s ‘One of These Things First’, the depth of feeling is emphasised with low piano notes as Nicol’s ‘never’ lyrics get their final outing.

Title track ‘Been a Long Year’ chronicles the acknowledgement of what Nicol has been through, having tried to muddle on and features a beautiful hummed chorus accompanied by producer, Emmanuel Ethier’s violin. The song also features backing vocals from Dirty Projectors’s Angel Deradoorian and serves as an exhale for the suffering Nicol.

An emotional and, at times, haunting listen, Been a Long Year Vol. 1 contains enough hope to believe Nicol will return to happier times while confronting his experiences as an enjoyably melancholic and cathartic endeavour. There’s much to admire here over five tracks which have you pining for more.

Been a Long Year Vol.1 is out tomorrow (30 June)

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