LAYNE - The Black Hills

Review by Shannon Shumaker

Dark, hypnotic and eerie, LAYNE’s new EP, The Black Hills takes you on a magical journey complete with stunning vocals, powerful lyrics and hauntingly beautiful instrumentals. From the very moment that the opening track, “Topical” really kicks in, to the stunning ending on “Phone,” echoey guitars and frontwoman Layne Putnam’s vocals will not only lull you into relaxation, but also transport you into a different world.

“Topical” really sets the tone for The Black Hills, encompassing nearly every theme on the EP in merely one song. While darkness is an obvious overlying theme throughout the entirety of the EP, another is empowerment and self-confidence, which can be heard in “Topical” in powerful lines like, “You want me back/But I don’t need you now.” These lines are delivered in Layne’s smooth, intoxicating vocals, which float easily over beautiful guitars and bass. “Topical” then flows easily into “Twuh,” which hits hard despite its echoey and empty sound.

The darkness on The Black Hills can easily be heard on the dangerous and hypnotic third song, “Boys Do,” both sonically and lyrically. Lines like “Darkness has a way” and “Don’t get in my face/Cause I’ll fight like the boys do,” really drive the themes of the album home without being too in your face. Instead, “Boys Do” is easily one of the stronger, more poetic songs on the EP. It’s catchy as hell and sing-along worthy while still remaining dark and dangerous. The same can also be said about the following song, “You,” which kicks off with the line, “Darkness is a season.” While “Boys Do” and “Topical” are rather powerful and confident, “You” shows a little more hesitance and self-consciousness in lines like, “Most days I hate myself/But I won’t be anybody else.”

Although “Phone” isn’t necessarily the explosive or powerful ending you’d expect from LAYNE, it is absolutely stunning. Much like “Topical,” this final track floats with ease, Layne’s voice lulling you into a trance before things come to an end and making you long for more once it’s over. As a whole The Black Hills is not only a solid release, leaving listeners without any questions about who LAYNE really is, but it shows a ton of promise for the future. With a vibe similar to PVRIS and even The 1975 at times, incredibly powerful lyrical content and stunning vocal work, LAYNE are destined for greatness.

Rating: 4.5/5

Listen to "Boys Do"

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