Singer-songwriter, musician and poet Oliver Shaw brings his experiences of living in London to life using dark gothic tones. He has been writing songs since 16 and released two solo albums while playing live with his band The Oliver Shaw Experience. His latest album Of Darker Plains is potentially the most personal of his releases to date.
The 10-track album covers 10 different tales of his life dealing with the modern strains and struggles of existing. The gothic imagery of the album draws on his many influences from musicians to poets. The intricately woven stories take you away from the stresses of your daily life as you escape into the music.
The album opens with ‘Be A Man’ which tackles the rarely spoken about topic of anxiety that men face in modern life and their understanding of their place in society. To get you into this topic, Shaw uses a picked melody with some dark notes. The lyrics outline everything society expects while giving his feelings on the matter. His vocals swing between building up the track and crashing you down with the innermost feelings people have. It is a captivating portrayal of how we approach society.
‘Everyone Needs a Dan Leno’ has a funkier beat to the melody. However, Shaw’s vocal performance is dreary and depressing adding the gothic edge to the track. The chorus of the track has a tearing edge to it that cuts through you. There is also something almost sinister lurking around the melody that makes you somewhat uneasy.
‘Burmese Taxi Taxidermy’ takes a different turn and is almost reminiscent of Nirvana in tone. This grunge-based track looks at how teenagers are forced into the fake world of social media. While it could take a very condescending tone like many tracks on this subject do, Shaw offers something different. The frantic verses are more like 90s rock which connects with the subject of the song instead of telling them what they are doing wrong.
‘Ipso Hekto’ slows you down after the last track with a floating melody. This track has a hazy feeling to it like those moments when drifting to wakefulness. Shaw’s vocals on the track add to this feeling as he has a laziness to his delivery. It is an interesting song particularly following the last.
‘Of Darker Plains’ is the title track and is strangely enough about a love triangle and how enjoyable things are often doomed to fail. The expansive melody has a gentle driving guitar line to it. The lyrics of the track look at dealing with the aftermath of things falling apart, but there is a hint of hopefulness to this song. That hint is present in the melody and Shaw’s vocals which are emotive and easy to connect with.
The next track is ‘Instant Grams’ which carries a bit of the driving melody from the last track over. However, the vocal performance is quite different. There is a whole new tone to this track with an arching vibe to it. It is almost like Shaw is calling out over a field as he sings. This song really showcases what he is able to do vocally while drawing you into the song. The guitar lines on this track have this delightful warble to them that is interesting to hear.
‘Pleasant Trees-Redone’ has a lighter note to it while still keeping to the overall aesthetic of the album. The driving beat of this track really hooks you and leads you into a more rock guitar melody. The vocal performance is also more rock than many of the other tracks. There is a growling quality to the vocals that makes this song gritty and raw.
‘Touch’ has this gentle acoustic fingerpicking at the start that leads you to Shaw’s smooth vocals. This track has an almost laid-back vibe to it while compelling you at the same time. The lyrics are very interesting and draw you into a strange zone when combined with the melody. I don’t know what it is about this song that is so interesting, but it hooks you and does not let go no matter how many times you listen to it.
‘The Nothing Song’ draws you in with a hazy country folk rhythm. This track takes you back to haziness, but there is something different about this hazy tone compared to ‘Ipso Hekto’. The use of horns adds this lovely deeper layer to the song. The lyrics and vocals on this track are a story on their own as they take you on a journey of discovery. You could easily see this track being part of a movie where the main character is having a slight existential crisis.
The last track is ‘Just Another Storm in Our House’ and is the most personal on the album which you can hear in the vocals. There is a raw honesty and emotion in the performance that tugs at your heartstrings. The song is about the breakdown of a relationship and looks at everything you might do to get over it. The minimalist melody helps the emotions of the track come through.
Oliver Shaw Music takes a look at the struggles of modern life and society in Of Darker Plains. Each song is a story on its own and looks at a different aspect of life that we all struggle with. The subject is relatable, but it is the almost gothic delivery of the tracks that make this an unforgettable album.