EPs are interesting creatures. Generally residing somewhere between creative experiments for lulls between albums and collections of previously unavailable material, they largely find a home with established fans of artists looking for a bit more. More anything, be it treasure or trifle. But they're rarely destinations themselves.
Greg Laswell's How The Day Sounds manages to fill a bit of both those needs while also setting itself off as something more important. Because in most ways, except for length, it bests his previous work, offering a more unified song palette and richer listening experience of new, and arguably improved, songs.
Greg Laswell continues his smoky, laid-back take on the modern alt-everything troubadour genre. Borrowing everything from americana to rock, it's a style that leaves a lot of room for both experimentation and wandering. With lesser songs, Laswell's smooth voice and nicely organic arrangements would be enough to garner some interest and rise above the noise of countless others attempting the same. But fortunately, he manages to write some really nice tracks as well.
Although the new EP builds on the sound he established with his first album, Through Toledo, the songs, overall, on How The Day Sounds are stronger, catchier, and delivered with more focus. Toledo was at times a mixed bag. In between some tracks that really showcased his talent were still others rounding it out as acceptable filler. Intensity and interest wavered enough so that neither the strong tracks nor the lesser ones had much of a chance to take over. In bucking the trend of most EPs, How The Day Sounds is surprisingly absent of filler.
Things start off with the piano-led title track, "How The Day Sounds", which channels the better parts of Coldplay into a hit-ready radio single. Likewise, "Days Go On" keeps the piano front and center with a jangly track that manages to channel both Ben Folds and Elliot Smith. "Salvation Dear" probably does the best job of marrying the sound of Laswell's debut with the songwriting maturity of the new material, while "Embrace Me" continues the thought that there's more than a little Chris Martin in his vocals, but used in an utterly smooth and seductive closer to the new songs in this set.
The remaining tracks are still new recordings, but revisit previous songs. "High And Low", which was also present on Through Toledo receives a nice makeover, making it slower and more languidly acoustic, as the piano with string ensemble arrangement is used to ultimately greater effect. The update to the previously non-album track "What A Day" also sees a migration to the piano, and with much the same results as the previous song. The blend between the newer and older material is judiciously handled to create a seamless listening experience. It doesn't feel like an EP. On the contrary, it's the mini album that you don't want to end.
Overall, the style of How The Day Sounds stays on the slower and more melodic side of his debut, never reaching some of the more rock-tinged tracks like "Worthwhile" and "I'm Hit". But whatever drive is sacrificed by the lack of faster distortion, it is more than made up for with exceptionally clear songwriting. This is catchy and fantastic singer-songwriter pop-rock at its best. If this is meant to tide us over in between albums, then it must be leading to a hugely impressive record indeed.