The pandemic has resulted in many of us experiencing things in ways that are very different to normal. Henry Dukes is not immune to this and tells the story of one such experience in his debut EP VoiceMail. Telling the story of a first love set during lockdown, the tracks cover voicemails and messages exchanged by a young couple while diving into the emotions they felt.
While the EP touches on a personal event for Dukes, he brings it to sonic life with amazing maturity. Written and produced with Tom Phelps, the two young songwriters show that they are a force to be reckoned with while wearing their hearts on their sleeves through the music. With a journey back to the depths of lockdown, the tracks will have you reminiscing about your own first love.
The EP opens with ‘Eight O’clock’ which opens with a sound snippet of a phone not being able to connect. This gives way to a smooth RnB flow with Dukes’ vocals swirling around your senses with a feeling of loneliness. The beat of the melody has your head moving to its rhythm before the vocals reach out to someone who is not around. There is an interesting contrast in the lyrics of loneliness and connection with others. It is a wonderful introduction to both the story of the EP and Dukes’ sound. The single ends as it opens which creates a perfect circle.
The guitar that opens ‘Slow Down’ has a slightly mournful tone as a voicemail plays in the background. This turns into a sultry shuffle of sounds that settles over your shoulders like a warm blanket. Through the track, you are filled with the twirling emotions of a new love. There is a sense of bliss but also the feeling of wanting to slow down to savour the feeling. The interjection of voicemails midway through the track is a great break in the flow. Breaking the track into two sections really enhances the emotive flow of the track.
‘Do the Same’ brings a pop ballad feel to the EP while delving into sadness and the ache of loneliness. While the lyrics reach out to a loved one, Dukes’ vocals have a pained vulnerability to them. This track is packed with feelings of unrequited love from the vocals to the mournful strings. There is a heavy plea in the vocals that tugs at your heart and will have you welling up. The harmonising vocals push the pain of the track home, particularly on the chorus.
‘If I Die Tomorrow’ takes a folk turn with the acoustic guitar and intimate vocals. The lyrics of this track are so easy to relate to as we have all felt them at some point during the pandemic. The threads of unrequited love are picked up for this track and intertwined with lines of deep sadness. Through the vocal performance, you are pulled back in time to the depths of lockdown and the depressed thoughts that the isolation brought.
The EP ends with ‘Goodbye’ which opens with a call connecting. The use of this melodic device is wonderful as it contrasts with the opening track where the call did not connect. The sample drop for a subdued acoustic guitar. There is a somewhat reflective feeling to this track as the lyrics look back on the relationships while trying to move forward. Through this track, Dukes really lays his heart out for someone and opens himself to either an embrace or rejection. It is a tender way to end the EP as it pleads for things to stay the same without having to say goodbye.
Henry Dukes showcases his musical skills while taking you on an extremely emotional journey of love during lockdown with VoiceMail. The five tracks of the EP each have a unique feeling while showcasing his musical versatility. From folk to pop, the EP covers genres while tugging at your heart with pained vocals and longing lyrics.