Ben Hazlewood’s New EP, ‘EOS’, Reviewed
I have seen Ben Hazlewood at the Viper Room during his West Coast tour last February, and his stage presence exalted the crowd with sexiness and passion, but also a visible confidence. The New Zealand native who began singing at the age of five and never considered doing anything else, has just released a new EP, ‘EOS’, featuring 6 songs which transpire the same intensity with a hard-hitting pop contemporary vibe and strong vocals.
There is something very emotional and sensual in Hazlewood’s powerful and seductive voice which commands all the songs with a melancholic R&B feel, going from a wounded murmur to a real powerhouse tenor, and taking control of the room, the place, wherever you are. If his angst-driven lush vocals are front row, the music behind his impressive howl is fueled with dance floors inspiration, semi-industrial ambiance, hard beating choruses and dark electro-pop soundscapes like during ‘Sail Away’, a song which makes his voice soar while opening new heights to hang on. The song was released as a second single earlier this year (after the first single ‘Drive On’) and Ben had this to say about it: ‘Sail Away is a journey of letting go, which is the hardest thing to do after fighting for so long to keep the dream alive. It’s when the natural resistance to admit defeat sets in and provokes taking that one chance to move forward instead of waiting for the change that may never come.’ And there’s a bit of this same feeling in every song of the EP, which mixes a sort of abandon with a cathartic delivery, going through pain and heartbreak.
The kaleidoscopic piano lines blend with emotional strings during ‘Darkest Hour’ to bring a more romantic and vulnerable side to Hazlewood’s vocals, which once again shine above the rest. ‘Deny’ and ‘Drive On’ probably have some of the catchiest choruses of the EP, and could spread like fire, whereas ‘Feel the Love’ and ‘Undone’ are bigger-than-the-room sweeping soulful anthems while unleashing a roller coaster of emotions, translated by Hazlewood’s powerful and flexible vocals.
Ben Hazlewood has been busy writing, recording music and performing in Australia and abroad since the moment he was a finalist from season one of Australia’s The Voice, where he covered The Script’s Breakeven’ in 2012. After a debut album, ‘Loveless’ released in 2013, he dropped ‘Vanta’ last year, before this new EP. Each song of ‘EOS’ is an example of empowerment through high-energy music with soaring hard-hitting choruses and his forceful and distinctive voice, but there is also something very contemporary pop about his inspiration. His radio-ready pop-rock songs, from the fluid percussive arrangements of ‘Deny’ to the vocals abandon of ‘Sail Away’, bring an overall pop sensibility impregnated with a modern R&B, but whipped by a burning passion and a palpable poignancy that don’t really calm down throughout the course of the six songs.