Recorded and released in lockdown, ‘Where Did Winter Go?’ is the latest collection of new music from seventeen-year-old musician, Max Mulrenan. His masterful debut EP is smooth and slick, and a raw and genuine first body of independent work, bound to set him up for huge future success in the industry, all through his particularly immaculate musical aesthetic.
Opening with an instrumental, ‘Where Did Winter Go?’ is a marshmallow of strings, infused with a catchy R&B, jazz rhythm and garnished with silky saxophone countermelodies courtesy of Sam Melvin, who co-produced, mixed and mastered the whole project alongside Mulrenenan and Sam Curry, who together are all members of the band, ‘Flooded’. Creating a vibe that is warmer than just the typical cool coffee shop kind, the title track introduces crisply, this musical project as rather intimidatingly impressive for a musician of such a young age.
Seamlessly into the second song of the EP, ‘Strawberry Skies’ is the soundtrack for a blissful twilight. Contrasted to Mulrenean’s relaxed vocal delivery, Abi Campbell, who features on the track, offers exquisite elegance through her soft, yet powerful voice as she sings ‘I’m living life, strawberry skies, life’s never been so good’. With references to being young and free but simultaneously feeling misunderstood and sometimes lost with the difficulty of having to grow up, this track naturally embeds itself perhaps more with the younger generation. The sunset imagery created through the lyrical crafting is wholesome and soul-nourishing, and seems to contribute to a much bigger concept that forefronts this entire EP, which is full of originality.
Being able to relate at ground-level with Loyle Carner, who shares similar South-East London roots, Mulrenan is able to sonically resonate with the fans who also enjoy Kofi Stone, as well as the Fugees and Kano. With a greater angle towards hints of grime in ‘Gold for the Older Boys’, the entire EP when listened to fully, has zero fillers, keeping the compilation consistent but interesting.
Whilst the source of writing inspiration is ambiguous, ‘For John’, the penultimate track, feels heavy with truth, which is detected through the sincere and passionate tone of Mulrenean’s vocal intonations. Through sampling The Kinks’ ‘Waterloo Sunset’ and even referencing it in the lyric, ‘that’s why I’m sat here sampling The Kinks’, this track emanates a secret sadness through its specific detail and reminiscent storytelling. Delicate, beautiful piano nuances underscore the poem that expresses touching notions of feeling disconnected and separated from someone you care about, leaving you ultimately enfolded within an inescapable cycle of overthinking - something we can all perhaps relate to. Integrated within the composition, the instrumentation that echoes the ticking of a clock - maybe intended to emphasise the inevitably that time does pass by and that the idea of trying to deal with missing someone becomes even harder - is a subtle, clever intention. For that, ‘For John’ is probably my favourite track on this entire EP.
Ending with a powerful track in ‘Barriers’ and wrapping all the tropes of the EP into one, the unhurried yet energetic aura created is inexhaustible and easily repeatable, indicating overall great accomplishment for a project.