It’s been six years since Eric Paslay’s debut album, which had us dancing to ‘Friday Night’ one minute, and feeling the gut punch of ‘She Don’t Love You’ the next. He’s had five number one hit singles, been nominated for two Grammys and won multiple Song of the Year awards. On 3rd July Paslay will launch a new EP, ‘Heartbeat Higher’.
But there’s definitely no Friday Night in this collection of songs. It’s a deep journey, not for the fainthearted. Four tracks might feel skimpy, but this is heavy listening. It’s a more subdued mood than we’re used to from Paslay. After the first three tracks I find myself wanting to check that Eric’s okay, and give him a big hug.
‘Heatbeat Higher’ was the first single off the EP. It’s a relatively unremarkable song on first listen, but the lyric repetition in the chorus is enough to get under the ear drums. It’s a more electronic sound than previous music, which perhaps gives a clue to the more reflective tone of the next two tracks, which are something of a surprise.
‘On This Side of Heaven’ is a simple, tear inducing, rather beautiful ode to a dead lover. “I close my eyes and we’re dancing/ I close my eyes but I can’t sleep/ I pray I drift away before the sunrise/ So I can hold you for a minute in my dreams”. If his music is moving sonically in a different direction, what hasn’t changed is the fact that he’s still a grade A songwriter. At the song’s halfway point, the music ramps up, the drum beat kicks in and the anguish grows. It’s hard not to be moved.
And there’s no let-up in ‘I Took a Pill in Ibiza’. A clever, stripped back country-fied cover of the dance track by Mike Posner. Full of raw emotion, it’s a confession of the life of someone famous, spiralled out of control. It’s so frank that it feels like the natural out-pouring of thought rather than a polished, honed lyric. “When I finally got sober, felt ten years older, but screw it it was something to do.” he sings. It’s an intriguing song, compelling enough to listen again, but so deep and dark it’s unlikely to make a playlist.
It is maybe with certain relief that track four kicks in. ‘Boat in a Bottle’ is an interesting concept of, funnily enough, sitting in a boat in a bottle, where none of your troubles can reach you. It’s an uplifting, crowd pleasing, clap happy track, which would kick start any day. Turn this up when you’re feeling down. It’s more of the Paslay that we’re familiar with, it’s an old-time fan pleaser. But perhaps, although it’s the more expected song on the EP, it’s not the one anyone’s going to talk about, given the distinctiveness of the previous tracks.
So as long as you’re okay Eric, if you could keep turning out the deep stuff, we’ll keep listening.
- ‘Heartbeat Higher’ feat. Sarah Buxton (Eric Paslay, Sarah Buxton, Zach Crowell)
- ‘On This Side of Heaven’ (Eric Paslay, Jordan Reynolds, Jordan Minton)
- ‘I Took a Pill in Ibiza’ (Mike Posner)
- ‘Boat in a Bottle’ (Eric Paslay, Sarah Buxton, Tofer Brown)