SAINT RAYMOND – A Light That Blinds EP

Saint Raymond isn’t a band but the professional name of singer-songwriter Callum Burrows. He’s previously shared stages with indie pop press darlings Haim. He’s also shared a stage with the muchly over exposed Ed Sheeran, but you probably shouldn’t necessarily let that put you off. Saint Raymond’s 2015 release ‘Young Blood’ gained support from Radio 1’s Huw Stevens and even led to Burrows recording a session at the prestigious Maida Vale studio. With those credentials, there were high hopes for a second release and although only an EP, 2017’s ‘A Light That Blinds’ gives a good taster of more solid pop-rock.

Perhaps what’s most impressive is that these four songs are presented with a really huge and professional sound; tunes with the kind of finish and fatness that indie labels would’ve only ever dreamed of a few years previously. ‘We Are Fire’, in particular, comes with a huge bottom end, despite being constructed of electronic beats and loops. Callum’s voice, meanwhile, is equally big – and confident – it’s easy to imagine a good performer here, once you scrape away the vocal filters. Looking beyond the general sound, the song is brilliantly constructed – everything that good pop should be. It’s verse sets up a more than reasonable melody, but it’s the inclusion of a pre-chorus (an often overlooked element of good song writing) that raises the bar. With that almost coming like a chorus in and of itself, the actual chorus eventually smashes through with gusto, sounding like a cross between a smash hit from The Killers and something less annoying by Fun. Factor in the crushing electronic bottom end – a sound that surely works much better on a good pair of speakers as opposed to ear buds – and Saint Raymond sound ready to take over the airwaves.

Presenting a slightly rockier edge, ‘Younger’ is a definite highlight. Combining a staccato guitar part with a subtle drum at first, the track allows Callum’s vocal to take centre stage, before the guitars rise for a chorus that’s truly infectious. “I just wanna get to know you” opines the singer-songwriter repeatedly on a hook that should annoy, but instead sounds like the best things that radio should be made of. The Killers very much influence the sound, along with the stronger moments of Snow Patrol and while it’s the kind of thing you’ll have heard so often, in this case, the material really stands up. With a more rhythmic base, the melodic ‘Nightcrawling’, doesn’t quite capitalise on it’s main hook but luckily, the musical arrangement is always interesting. There’s something very retro at play here, perhaps recalling parts of Simple Minds during their overlooked ‘Neapolis’ phase. Beneath the more obvious sounds, there are layers begging for extra attention; in particular, a staccato guitar busying beneath everything is very cool and could have even been culled from a Cities tune…and that can only be a good thing.

Among tunes that are certainly enjoyable for the style, the EP is marred by one definite skipper. The almost percussion free ‘Last Time’ places too much trust in a vocal melody that’s been subjected to studio trickery. If the vocal is to be the big draw, the voice should be heard in its natural state. In the name of sanity, it also shouldn’t ever sound like it’s about to slip into something by Craig bloody David at any given second. Not ever. This was obviously never going to reach the same qualities set by a couple of other tracks and when a muted guitar part never really grabs a hold of anything interesting, the skip button is probably best called upon. Very few things are perfect, but it’s hard to believe this even came from the same musician presented on the overblown ‘We Are Fire’…

This EP is frivolous and obviously poppy – perhaps a little too much so with regard to the regrettable ‘Last Night’ – but on the bulk of these four songs, Saint Raymond presents a very professional front and a sound that’s tailor made for the bulk of listeners who tune into Absolute Radio on a daily basis. Although being promoted as a man who presents “feel good indie anthems”, make no mistake – most of this release is pop in almost every aspect. But it’s time to keep an open mind, since on the basis of these four tracks, Saint Raymond is capable of very well crafted pop. In a just world, you’ll be hearing this Nottingham act’s music between better known hits by The Killers, Keen and Kings of Leon fairly regularly.

December 2017