John Pierce O’Reilly – Iffley Road (2021)

A singer, songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist, John Pierce O’Reilly is a musical force to be reckoned with, but his music isn’t that forceful. Combining the intimacy of Joni Mitchell with the soothing sounds of James Blake, O’Reilly ensnares your senses in a simplistic way. Quite a new artist in the folk scene, O’Reilly has only been releasing music in the past few months – or at least that’s what I see on Spotify. Yet, while he may have only reached our ears recently he has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, received airtime on BBC radio stations and been featured on YMX. The latest addition to his discography is his debut EP Iffley Road.

Influenced by the likes of John Martyn, James Blake, Bon Iver, and classical musicians Mahler and Szymanowski, O’Reilly creates a kaleidoscopic soundscape with his unique sound. Combining diverse instrumentation from violins to acoustic guitars, O’Reilly merges classical with more informal styles engaging with several audiences. Not only is he reaching out to a wide range of listeners, but the fusion of traditional and contemporary highlights his innovativeness as a composer.

In addition to engaging with audiences in several genres, O’Reilly connects with listeners using a personal narrative in his songs. Touching on relationships, each of the tracks on Iffley Road looks at a connection with a specific person. From ‘iombhá’ to ‘Begger’s Prayer’, O’Reilly has a nostalgic reflection on love, isolation, loss, frustration and inner turmoil. Place this poignant content in a harmonic melody and you have four soul-stirring tracks.

“The EP was written as a way of working through both musical and personal challenges. At the time of writing I felt a sense of frustration towards my musical language and personal circumstances and this EP was a challenge I set myself in order to force a move forward in a broad sense.” – John Pierce O’Reilly on Iffley Road

What I find intriguing about Iffley Road is its simplicity. The basic instrumentation melds seamlessly with O’Reilly’s melancholic lyricism. Effortlessly executed, the rich vocals add robustness to the songs without being overbearing. In fact, the hushed quality of the dulcet vocals evokes a spine-chilling sensation.

It is difficult to believe that this stunning EP was recorded in a single bedroom in a student house in Oxford. The intriguing instrumentation, studio-quality vocals and clever musical arrangements make Iffley Road a sophisticated few minutes of music. Reminiscent of Salvador Sobral, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, but with a distinctive pop meets acoustic folk design, John Pierce O’Reilly is a star in the making!

For more from John Pierce O’Reilly check out his Instagram and Spotify.

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