There’s a pattern I always follow when starting an album review. When dealing with hundreds of daily submissions, an album usually only has a minute or two to catch my attention to make it onto the potential review list. Full exploration of the album doesn’t happen until much later, when a final version is submitted, and time is blocked off to really delve into the work. As I listen to each track, I take notes on a yellow legal pad before finally adding a “yes,” “no,” or “maybe,” next to each song on the list. As you might have guessed, those yesses become highlights for the pending review.
It took twenty-six minutes and thirty-six seconds exact to listen to the self-titled EP from the UK’s in earnest. In their debut album, the band managed something I had never experienced before: my attention was held so tight that I took no pauses, no rewinds, and no skips forward. My notepad showed six songs. All six songs had a “yes” scribbled next to the track name.
The band describes in earnest as a “6-track exploration of mental illness, nostalgia and hope vs hopelessness.” As discussions on mental health have thankfully become more prominent, many artists have tackled the subject with a track or two. in earnest eschews the common trend of hitting the listener in the chest with melancholic introspection on one song, quickly followed by a catchy YOLO inspired track. Their album is focused. The messages are clear. There’s credibility in their consistency and honesty in their lyrics. The album stays grounded in the sounds of gentle indie rock chords infused with nods to folk storytelling.
If I were to describe any of the six tracks as upbeat, it would be the album opener, “29.” With an old-school alternative rock vibe, the song ruminates on aging by looking back at the glory days while capturing the incumbent angst for the future.
The album also reminds us that reflection on mental health does not require that optimism be excluded. “Come Up Stairs” is clearly about supporting someone with depression, highlighting strength, comfort, and unity. The album closer, “Home,” finds strength in togetherness. The song’s minimally strummed acoustic melody at the start makes the heartfelt vocals even more poignant while the glow of electric guitar near the end adds a feeling of hope.
in earnest deserves to be listened to in its entirety. However, if there is a need to proclaim one song a standout, it would easily be “Fables.” Reflecting on how dreams can lead to disillusion, the song starts with a mournful organ, a bit of distortion in the background, and the best vocal presentation on the album thanks to a powerful duet between singers Sarah Holburn and Thomas Eatherton. “Fable” grows into a noisy rock explosion, making it instantly memorable.
Six tracks. Twenty-six minutes, thirty-six seconds coming together for one purpose. I’ll get right to the point: a band’s debut album simply shouldn’t be this good. in earnest has created an artful exploration on mental health that will be hard to surpass on future works. It’s smart, thoughtful, and has just the right musical touches to hook you for the entire record.