A Bell Locks In
'A BELL LOCKS IN,' Blake Collins' 5-song debut EP, beautifully melds old-school Rock & Roll attitude that boasts the same sensibility and bravery of The Beatles and The Kinks with organic, timeless, DIY dream-pop aesthetic, like Emitt Rhodes, The Shins and Elliott Smith. Collins' breadth as a songwriter and musician are on full display in the pastiche instrumentation here, which includes traditional rock elements such as electric guitars, bass, piano and drums, alongside less conventional instruments like the chord organ, mellotron and ukulele. A velvety and haunting string arrangement on the EP's center-piece puts the cherry on top. The result: a pop record that is at once familiar, yet refreshingly unique and unfolding in its intricacies.
'A Bell Locks In' : Track-by-Track
1. Mia My Only
"MIA MY ONLY" is a quirky guitar-rock song produced on analogue tape and featuring all the best classic pop sensibilities: memorable melody, concise composition, and a brevity that leaves you wanting more. The titular Mia embodies the universal desire to convert romantic dreams into romantic reality, while the hopeful plea to her communicates the immediacy of this shared experience. The granular guitars, bopping piano and pocket drums recall Emitt Rhodes’ 1970 self-titled album, establish the atmosphere and spontaneity easily found on early recordings by The Kinks, and guide Collins’ catchy vocal melodies, which would fit comfortably on Harry Nilsson’s ‘The Point.’
2. It's Summer Time
“IT’S SUMMER TIME” is the breakout single from ‘A Bell Locks In.’ A firm fan-favorite, it is a hot, dry summer made audible. The song features the ukulele as its main rhythm instrument and is accompanied by other mostly acoustic (as well as breath- , hand- , and wind-powered) elements, like bongos, finger snaps, acoustic bass, glockenspiel and wind chime bells, to achieve a sparse yet succinct arrangement that is reminiscent of Paul McCartney’s ‘RAM.’
"ZOE," the centerpiece on the EP, is the longest (and perhaps the most nostalgic) track on the album. Captured in one take, a story about lost friendship is told through a series of memories and draped in the intimacy of analogue bedroom pop that is simultaneously reminiscent of Elliott Smith’s confessional ‘From A Basement On The Hill’ and John Lennon’s exploratory ‘Mind Games.’
The lilting piano, weepy slide guitar and velvety string quartet lend the sepia-tinged vibe of an old photograph while the key change in the bridge and the haunting, yet unexpectedly playful, melodica solo highlights Collins’ prowess for sophisticated musical arrangement within a modest and succinct palette.
4. Anticipating Loving You Again
"ANTICIPATING LOVING YOU AGAIN" is an acoustic ditty, short and sweet, and recalls the simplicity and silliness of The Velvet Underground. As a song created entirely on a vintage tape machine, it's like a page out of an old book, a weathered photograph from a photo album in your grandmother's attic and is the result of one of those magical moments of inspiration, when the song — fully formed — simply springs into being, lyrics and all.
5. Mystery Girl
With tastefully subtle jazz elements woven into his signature indie-pop fabric, "MYSTERY GIRL” is the closing song on ‘A Bell Locks In.’ A stripped-down instrumentation and slower tempo allow the song to sit nicely on any playlist featuring tracks from George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass’: prominent and sultry piano, a twinkling electric guitar and softly sizzling drums give the piece an undercurrent of pensive, wistful longing, while the mellotron organ adds a sonic gravity that anchors the track in optimism and hope. An instant, timeless standard!