Named after a color that apparently cannot be seen when printed, Chartreuse is an English four-piece who creates richly textured, loose-limbed soul music. And before you go thinking of feel-good Aretha Franklin type soul music, I’m talking about a different, more hushed kind of soul; one that oozes warmth, intimacy, melancholy, and draws you in with its myriad of musical influences including folk, alternative, and jazz.
The band has just announced the release of their sophomore EP, Keep Checking Up On Me, which follows on from their similarly sorrowfully titled debut, Even Free Money Doesn’t Get Me Out of Bed. Fronted vocally by Michael Wagstaff and Harriet Wilson, each track on the EP resonates with the writers’ thoughts, feelings, and curiosities that were all scrupulously pored over in great detail to become the finished recordings they are now.
Radiohead, Sharon Von Etten, Bon Iver, and Nick Cave are just some of the musical influences that can be pinpointed at varying points throughout the EP. Keep Checking Up On Me opens with the atmospheric and tempered “Tall Grass.” Closely correlating with Bon Iver’s trademark intimacy and melancholy, the track was self-produced by Michael and lyrically comprises of a character who struggles to find solace in the ways of the world whilst feeling isolated and alone.
This is then followed by “Enemy’s Belly” which ups the tempo and dynamism with the introduction of a jazz fused drumbeat alongside tremolo guitars, atmospheric vocal harmonies, and synth textures. The often-intricate vocal rhyming structures of Elbow’s Guy Garvey can also be heard across the track as Michael’s vocals fluctuate between singing and spoken-word in their self-reflective delivery.
Perhaps the stand-out track of the EP lies in its title track. The video of which was directed by Joe Connor (Biffy Clyro, The Rolling Stones, Coldplay) and is set in the grandeur surroundings of a Georgian church in Birmingham. The beginning of the track gives off touches of Alex Turner’s lounge-type aesthetic with a warm Wurlitzer line being accompanied by delicate drums and an incense stick burning in the video – nice touch. However, the lounge-type feel soon vanishes as the drums pick up intensity and Michael’s introspective lyrics take over: “My parents bought me a soul when I was young / I didn’t care for it, I didn’t feed its hunger / Oh, I put it in the cupboard only when they come round.” Angst-ridden and honest, this track stands out for its authentic feel.
“Blue State” sees Harriet take lead vocals in a more intimate, lo-fi oriented soundscape, and “Hope You’re Not Holy” concludes proceedings in a similar vein with minimal instrumentation that lures you in till its final seconds.
In all, Keep Checking Up On Me is an EP full of character, intimacy, and originality. It’s in no rush to bombard you with noise; it’s melody-rich, soulful music that sets its own pace created by a band taking their beguiling first steps into the world of music.