In 2015, Alex Biro made the move from solo singer-songwriter to frontman singer of Toronto-based Selfish Things. On March 16th 2018, they release their first major EP Vertical Love. At six tracks, the EP as a whole offers a lot for any Alternative Rock fan to enjoy, with many of the archetypical tropes and inevitable highs and lows. There’s a bit more beneath the surface to observe though, lots of fine guitar parts interlinking and some crafty production work on offer. Look out for the keys and piano too. Let’s dive right in.
You start looking for the fire exit pretty early when opener 8147 Mullholland Terrace boots up, but just hold tight for a second. It doesn’t exactly send a good omen off the bat when some questionably croaky vocals start to form, but there’s a pleasant surprise in store when the surprisingly lofty chorus takes hold of the song. It’s very chalk and cheese, and doesn’t afford the audience much easing in. There’s a strong riff running throughout, but it’s mostly fairly uniform, stationary Alternative Rock – throwing a You Me At Six vibe into the mix. It seems like a risky opening move, on one hand they’ve tried to cast a wide net with a neutral opener – which makes sense – but tried to offset that with some edgy moments in between the lulls.
Things improve though when the keys in the intro of Rust Cohle Never Sleeps seem to want to take the EP by the scruff of the neck. This is a saving move, as the dynamic control and overall atmosphere is really positive in the critical parts of the song. The similarly eerie intro of Without You makes them partner well back-to-back, but unfortunately it labours as the song wears on despite some intriguing lyrics. It seems a premature move at this point, as the EP doesn’t seem sufficiently built-up for this quieter number.
That said, Five Years is much closer to what Without You should have been and it’s hugely satisfying. It’s right on the money, probably the most natural sound on the EP. A steady and delicate drum rhythm pulls the coarse words through the song, behind gentle piano and guitar parts offering echoed, terse and plucking sounds in astute combinations. The song escalates well, there’s something brittle and vulnerable to the song which gradually gets more compact. Hangman by contrast is a looser entry and a welcome change of pace. The layering in the song keeps you waiting for an impact moment which is delayed and delayed. This suspense is well dictated so that when it does go into full flowing instrumentation, it’s a really gratifying execution.
Closing number 1435 is the trough that the album warrants. An ebbing and flowing piano has some refreshingly colourful movements, and supports Alex Biro well with a downcast, chesty vocal display. This changes in the latter half when the drums and guitar come belting through the front door, a little predictably but not to its detriment, allowing Alex to move into a more heartfelt cry to the audience and close Vertical Love with a customary crescendo to fade out. Textbook.
This is a promising first major EP from Selfish Things which at face value bodes well for them. Selfish Things benefits from a singer with solo artist experience as he is able to capture some excellent individual moments, but his transition to a full band singer is the right move in his development, as he doesn’t always possess the strength of presence to sustain interest in a song when isolated. As a result, Vertical Love is inconsistent with its quality and can fluctuate rapidly depending. With the support and compensation of a technically astute band which capitalises on some deft production quality however, this record is for the most part intriguing, provoking and captivating: 7/10
Check out that cracking track Rust Cohle Never Sleeps below