I started 2023 by proposing an experiment to my fellow editors – something to broaden my musical palate and inject a little unpredictability into the year. Throughout 2023, one of my reviews each month will cover a record chosen, entirely without my input, by our resident one-stop shop of recommendations: Inter himself. It speaks to the sense of community we have here at Everything Is Noise that his first pick for me was, in fact, an album I’d secretly had my eye on: Everything – the first solo LP from the talented and perpetually busy Allen Epley.
If the name seems familiar, that’s because Epley has been entrenched in the world of music for a few decades, supplying the ’90s and ’00s with a steady stream of enjoyable sound through the output of projects such as The Life and Times and Shiner. This, however, is his first solo record, and what a record it is. In the most endearing (and possibly literal) sense, Everything hearkens to the albums and experiences that have shaped him, with an equal tip of the hat to Epley’s other projects, both past and present.
I quickly grew to adore Everything during my first listen. The shift in sound plays to all of Epley’s strengths, channelling a resemblance to the songwriter’s other ventures into something refreshingly mellow. His catchy, strung-out melodies remain, while the sense of momentum in the instrumentation is far less urgent. In fact, from beginning to end, the calming richness in tone and composition exuded on Everything make for the ideal tonic to the bone-chilling temperatures that my town has been encased in this past week. Like glinting sunlight peering onto heavily frosted windows that are cold to the touch, Allen Epley and his music muster compelling evidence that even the depths of winter can feel warm when granted the right soundtrack.
It’s all so inviting, from the dusky aura of “Thousand Yard Stare” to the accented flutterings of “All Good Things”. There’s no empty husks of generic songwriting here, nor will you find fleeting filler employed simply to bloat the tracklisting. Instead, each song lives to its fullest, breathing distinctive character; each lyrical outpouring allows Epley to free his tranquil vocals, lilting and quietly dominant in the mix without needing to fight for your attention. Confessional number “I’m the One” characterises this perfectly, as his waveringly delivered words wind their way around the sombre surroundings.
Epley’s voice is not the only thing that’s easy on the ear, either. Although driven largely by Epley’s full-bodied guitar right up to the close of waltzing finale “The Lucid Dream”, Everything is underpinned neatly with keys, the inspiriting regularity of the drum work, and playfully understated basslines that peek out amid the album’s quieter moments. Peer closer, and extra pinches of goodness frequently pop up to sweeten the musical mixing pot. Strings reveal themselves cautiously amid the dulcet, modest pacing of tracks such as “Everything”; lap steel guitar frequently imbues whimsy, such as on “Spider Rico” and “The E.M.T.”; “Evangeline” even features otherworldly flourishes that lend it a peculiar tone that’s hard to resist.
It’s these unconventional routes that draw you willingly into Everything‘s appeal, like wandering off the beaten path, away from the crowds, and discovering unspoiled nature that begs tender, thorough exploration. The copious unexpected chords that lift an otherwise melancholic meander are my favourite aspect: they catch you off guard, resolving the wistful melodies and wonderfully flickering pacing with a kindred and brightly reverent nod to the easy-listening influences (such as James Taylor and Carole King) that populated Epley’s childhood.
However great 2022 may have been (for music, anyway), Allen Epley and his melodious sounds offer the perfect way to start 2023. Everything deserves your attention and it’s as simple as that. Rich, smooth, and warming to the core, I am convinced that you will find its title to be appropriately foretelling of all that you – like me – will find to love about this charming record.