As the frontman of country-folk-pop types Toliesel, Jack Olchawski is a confident, assured individual, and while his solo persona My Crooked Teeth doesn’t see him baring all of his hidden anguish in a strangled yowl of emotion, it’s a pleasing counterpoint to the layered sheen of the full band’s music. The five tracks of Watch The Darkness Stumble Home place Olchawski’s voice in a stark context – plain recordings of just him and his guitar, free of processing, effects and clutter. This, in effect, makes for a set of songs that have something of an impromptu, ‘coffee shop folk’ feel; an attractive quality. The guitar playing is reined in to define each tune in a simple framework; the vocals are straightforward and largely free of forced inflection; the lyrics are just on the right side of opaque without slipping into mawkishness. The self-confidence mentioned earlier remains, albeit in more subtle form – with moments of pure silence in ‘Call It Off’, with lyrics skirting away from cliché on ‘A Better Edit’, a broken-hearted song described through cinematic terminology. It’s difficult to criticise an EP such as this, as it’s so personal in its sound. It may be that at times the vocal style seems slightly flat and unmoving, or that the super-simple recordings really lay everything out for all to see. But these are minor details; this is a debut EP and it benefits from not being too considered or ‘developed’. Indeed, it might be the lack of such premature forced evolution that lends Watch The Darkness Stumble Home a particular charm.
(This review was previously published in Nightshift)