Music Review

June Hope EP review – “balmy, introspective dreamscapes”

In the ongoing, surreal unfurling of 2020, some of us may lose faith in the notion of “progress”. We may find it ever harder to believe in the unbounded optimism displayed in technicolour videos of the ‘60s. Locked into our homes for months on end, the idea of society in all its messy glory has taken on an impossible shimmer, the former buoyancy and sense of unbridled opportunity for our generation shrouded in uncertainty. And nothing symbolises the interruption to normality more than the cancellation of live music shows, with festival-goers having to instead content themselves with livestreamed kitchen concerts and classic gigs on YouTube.

Conversely, the downtime from live music and enforced introversion may be something of a gift for the creative spirit. Musicians around the world speak of prolific output under lockdown, and the current febrile atmosphere is ammunition for many songwriters. Following swiftly on from last year’s magnificent Commander of Sapiens, Galway psych-pop musician Eoin Dolan’s June Hope arrives as a sonic encapsulation of the conflicted feelings shared by many of us in these times. Its four tracks bristle with opulent orchestration recalling the likes of the Beatles’ White Album and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, creating balmy, introspective dreamscapes that oscillate between joyous abandonment at one moment, and weary uncertainty the next.

“June hope, where have you gone? Covered in a shadow” ponders Eoin in the reflective, titular first track over a shifting blanket of shimmering guitar chords redolent of The Beatles’ Julia, before resolving in a bed of flutes and mellotrons. “I can’t fault your timing” he sings in the chorus, suggesting both guarded optimism for the changing of the seasons, as well as uncertainty for what we have in store.

“Dolan conjures a sense of timelessness

Second track Supermacs turns the wistfulness up a notch, recounting idle days spent on Galway’s Salthill promenade playing slot machines. “I’d often fill my minutes up with nothing but looking out for you” Eoin sings, accompanied by mallet percussion, organs and chiming guitars. It conjures the fevered fantasies of adolescence in a blue-skied snapshot of youth. And with its uncanny ‘60s production, this depiction of bustling seaside idleness seems an age away.

We bounce then to the exotic Cairo Café with its promise of relief: “I’ll meet you at the Cairo Café, let all your problems be gone”. Cooing vocals meld with tremolo guitar, energetic bass and Latin percussion to evoke an effervescent sense of wanderlust and the promise of romance.

But this optimism is short-lived as we plummet back to Earth in the haunted closing track Gardening Magazines and Peppermint Tea, Eoin allowing himself to “sit back and fall into my dead domain”; the reality of a dreamer plucked from a dream and thrown into brooding, November darkness. The song, and the EP as a whole, manage the admirable achievement of both speaking to us about our precarious, confined circumstances, while conjuring a sense of timelessness, buoyed on by lush, retro-futurist orchestration and Eoin’s accomplished production. “Just the thought of a summer breeze and I’m reborn”, he sings, offering glimmers of hope amidst the murky skies. The world continues to spin on its axis, and tomorrow is another day; the palpable promise of a return to our uncaring, unfettered selves pervades the EP, and it’s this belief in tomorrow that will see us through these uncertain times.

June Hope is out now and you can hear it here now on BandCamp, or check out  www.eoindolan.com for more updates on Dolan’s work. Dolan is also donating 100% of sales from the EP to The Melting Pot Luck – Galway, a non profit community group set up in the west of Ireland to help bring about cultural exchanges between refugees, asylum seekers and locals.

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