If you could bottle up tenderly delicate vocals, mix them with woozy sonics and top everything with off with starkly introspective lyrics, you should get a taste of what Theo Bleak is all about. With the delivery of their latest EP For Seasons, that taste is sweeter than ever.
The Dundee artist, aka Katie Lynch, is a jewel among the Scottish city’s burgeoning music scene. Formerly a member of St.Martiins alongside Mark Johnston (a continuing collaborator in Theo Bleak’s production and live setup), Lynch released her first material under her new moniker just last year and has already supported Scottish soul-pop star Joesef on a nationwide tour across the UK. Fragments, Bleak’s debut EP, brims with introspection and jarring exposés of self-reflection on her personal experiences with eating disorders, family issues and self-harm. Though her follow-up looks outward towards the changing seasons for inspiration, Bleak’s penchant for melancholic observation remains in her most vivid body of work to date.
“When I signed the deal to live / this isn’t what I thought it’d be…” These gut-wrenching lyrics provide a powerful start to For Seasons in the track “Spring Song.” They contrast with the light guitars and lush vocal harmonies that surround them. But such is the optimism of Spring itself that the lyrics do veer towards more positive paths, musing over second chances and not feeling alone with an understated sense of hope, offering a hand to cling onto. “Summer Song” continues with a similarly intimate arrangement that lets Bleak’s mesmeric vocals come to the fore. The free-flowing vocal melodies shine brightest in the choruses while the accompanying harmonies are nothing short of sublime. Johnston’s production is equally as impressive here, blending the track’s varying textures with poise that allow new layers to reveal themselves with every listen.
A switch to electric guitar and reverby drums marks a shift in the weather come “Autumn Song.” Bleak describes it as her favourite season; one that offers a refuge of gloominess that she can hide within. The likes of Skullcrusher come to mind in the track’s broad soundscapes, while lyrically Bleak focuses on themes of grief and natural life cycles laced with poetic pockets of introspection. Rounding off the cohesive feel of For Seasons is “Winter Song,” where essences of Ben Howard and Phoebe Bridgers are tangible. Bleak sings of pressure approaching her once more amidst the harshness of Winter, her happiest season of the year having now passed her by, but with an anthemic feel towards the track’s conclusion that allows tinges of resilience to poke through the darkness.
“I feel like I’ve trapped a year of my life in this EP, as if it were a snow globe; I could gaze into a moment frozen in time,” says Bleak in accompanying press release. Her deeply personal style of songwriting sucks you in from the first minute to the last in her latest EP. A modern ode to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, it might seem on the surface. But in actuality, For Seasons uses the soundtracks of the varying seasons as its underbelly for profound insights into Bleak’s endearing psyche to prevail.