WORDS, a new project spearheaded by Jonny Gore of Least of These, is unlike expectation. It is one of those rare musical projects that turns out an exceptional introductory sample to the band, the perfect tasting menu for a future visit to the restaurant. Beyond the sonic fabric are clever musical embellishments, a correlative layout of not only the theme of Trees but the cycle of First World Life in general. For example, it’s contained within the rotation of the song titles themselves: Wake, Consume, Progress, Sleep, Repeat. It’s adroit and thematically consistent, which is a treat for anyone who has an appreciation for a multi-layered album concept – something the world has lost in the Age of the Spotify Single.
“Overture” is slightly celestial and formless with a soft vocal delivery, melodic and relatably simple. You’ll find yourself adapting quickly and singing along. Before you slip into existential crisis, WORDS gently transitions to a louder presence, peppering in screams and a drum cadence that commands your full awareness segueing into “Wake,” a playful combination of hardcore and some modernization of bubblegum pop. The retro vibe is muted, but it’s brilliantly camouflaged and executed.
This is also where the EP’s title, Trees, begins to weave its thread. Throughout the record, the metaphor extends from God to values to the guarantee of our own return to nature in the end. “The leaves will fall and so will we,” Gore writes, a perfect example of this analogy (and it’d be unfair not to throw a nod at the awesome pop-punk vocals that bring the song home).
“Consume” is even more inventive. To give a home to the manic lifestyle of going and buying and doing and being, WORDS manages to capture a Latin dance party, a hardcore musical performance, and also includes four languages to poetically speak to human connection. For all that “Consume” has going on, this song should be an ugly, confusing mess. Instead, it is a beautiful, fun, space-rock track that is full of life slathered in guitar to pair with the guttural yelling and synth vocals.
The heart of Trees, “Progress,” pulls in a call back from the preceding track, “The stars aren’t dying after all,” to bring closure to the symbolic dance of those who are together in spirit but not body. As the awareness of this divide sets in, the elements of the track find harmony to create the soul of the EP. It’s a short song, but it’s infused with a melancholic truth: one of life’s only guarantees is death.
The rest of the EP finds its rhythm; it embraces songs about rebirth and growth using ambiguous verbiage, divine intervention, post-hardcore, and a delicate and elegant departure. It is lacy in the carefully harmonic backing vocals and stays in a hesitant-but-pleasant innocent backdrop for the vocals.
The mood each track creates musically is most compelling. There is particular intention in the way the vocals match each piece of Trees while telling a robust story that ends where it began. It wraps up its journey of self-discovery and existence by embracing the unknown and the endless differences we all share, bolstered with a confidence that someone out there has the answers. But, as for us trees, it’s not about the answers we find but the connections we create before the leaves fall.