Richard Self – That Could’ve Gone Better

 Richard Self – That Could’ve Gone Better

Richard Self – That Could’ve Gone Better – EP Review

You gotta applaud a title like this EP has.  Not only does it likely apply to the story of a relationship that Richard Self has woven into the lyricism you’ll find in each of these songs, but when you decide to remaster an entire set-list with an updated skillset, you’ve gotta crack at least a wry smile at the extra layer of meaning that adds to the name of this record.  It’s as if he listened to what he had back in 2019 and assessed it instantly – That Could’ve Gone Better – and now he’s here to prove that he was right.

As That Could’ve Gone Better begins with an upbeat start in the opening track called “Distance,” Richard is instantly at top speed, bursting straight outta the gate throughout the majority of this short, less-than two-minute long track.  It makes for an energetic start for sure; by the time you blink, it’s pretty much already over.  That being said, it’s probably my favorite of the bunch I think.  I’ve had a decent set of spins through this EP…and yeah…I think I can proclaim “Distance” as my favorite from the lineup.  I dig the fired-up take on Pop/Rock here…I feel like the hooks are equally strong in the music as they are in the vocals…and ultimately, I suppose I’d go as far as to say that “Distance” is probably the most universal cut in the bunch as well.  It’s just loaded up with relevant sound if you ask me…a timeless fusion of two giant genres that have always paired well…the shiny Pop hooks, the Rock energy…it’s a classic combination that’s tried, tested, and true.  “Distance” takes you through the start of a relationship as it begins to develop and the couple in question begins to fill up the rooms by buying stuff.  I feel like this track works out pretty well – I know I would have taken another couple minutes of it, so that’s usually a good sign in my world.  At less than two minutes in length, yeah…I mean…it’s a bit short for my personal taste, but that’s hardly any kind of substantial complaint – I can just push repeat.

Crashing into the next track called “Losses,” it’s clear that Richard kinda aimed to make a ruckus back in 2019 when he originally recorded this EP.  With newfound skills in production after taking another course to further his capabilities, you can hear the definition present in a track like this one, especially if we’re talking about the music.  Spreading brilliantly through the lefts and the rights, “Losses” makes for a genuinely entertaining listen for the dynamics and depth you’ll find in the music.  I’d probably personally question where he’s got the vocals sitting in the mix a bit perhaps…I’d likely recommend nestling his voice a little bit more into the music, but that’s kinda like salt I suppose – add volume to suit your taste.  Great definition in the guitars as this track begins though, and I dig the piano keys in the mix as well at the start.  As far as the volumes go & whatnot, it really is a personal taste kinda thing…some folks really like everything at a fairly even keel across the board, some folks think the vocals always need to be louder, and then there’s me, somewhere in the middle of all that, saying that each situation likely calls for something a little different than the last.  There’s a couple of moments that come out a little crispy in the set…like, the vocals just past the first minute mark…you can hear a fraction of distortion, but nothing too detrimental.  It really depends on what Richard’s objective was, what the original source material would allow him to do with it production/mix-wise, and how things started with the songs from back in 2019…ultimately, he’s really the only one that’s gonna know how far he’s evolved the songs on this EP from where it all began.  In listening to That Could’ve Gone Better, if I had to assess what I’m hearing, I’d say that the majority of time that Richard has put into this remastering project, was likely spent mostly focused on the music itself.  Any slight things I felt like could have come out better than they have always seemed to revolve around the vocals…sometimes in the mix, sometimes in the volume – but no matter where you look to listen on this EP, he’s got the music dialed in as good as it gets y’all.

Case in-point!  Seamlessly sliding into the electronic energy of “Holidays” to follow, you get a good mix of the synthetic sound into the analog vibes here.  LISTEN to the punch in the music will ya?  I love the way that “Holidays” starts and instantly begins to crank the heat up through your speakers!  I feel much the same towards about this set-list altogether more or less…like when I hear the music start things up, I’m like, fuck yeah, that’s perfection…and then I kind of end up a bit surprised that the vocals sit so firmly atop the rest, you know?  The effect is a little bit loud-on-loud, and I’m not sure that really provides the full scope of what he’s looking for.  I get that he’s looking to create that separation between the elements of his music based on what he’s goals were in redoing this particular EP, but that level of like…audible cleanliness doesn’t always end up producing the desired result I suppose.  Don’t get me wrong, each song sounds pretty damn good – the music is outright special, and even the vocals have a lot goin’ on for’em…but yeah…I’m a big believer that things have gotta mesh a bit too.  Right now, Richard’s got this all so separated and each element in the mix so individually focused, that it’s almost as if a track like “Holidays” is missing a little bit of the cohesion that a song needs too in the relationship between the vocals and the music.  Could just be my opinion, but as y’all know, I’m never afraid to share that with ya.  Like I was tellin’ ya earlier, it’s really all about what the goals were for Self as he remastered this set of songs…it’s hard to compare something to what was originally if I don’t have access to the old record; all I can tell the guy is what I’m hearing now.  Musically, “Holidays” is straight-up off the charts AMAZING – and it’d have my vote on the strengths we hear there alone.  Vocally, I think that’s where he’s still got a bit of room to evolve his craft even further…whether that’s through effects, or simply bringing things down a bit in the volume to sink more into what surrounds them for a more cohesive result, that’s really up to him.  He might have everything right where he wants it, and if that’s the case, all the more power to him…again, all I can tell ya is what I’m hearing on this side of the speakers…as in the truth, as I hear it.  This is heckin’ ROBUST like your morning cup of coffee though dear readers, dear friends…I’d listen to Richard jam out “Holidays” all damn day long & twice on Sunday.  Credit where credit is due…on tracks like “Losses” and “Holidays,” there’s a LOT involved in creating a compelling mix with so much going on in the instrumentation, but in my opinion, he’s totally nailed it.  I guess, if anything, maybe bring that guitar solo up a smidgen just to help it stand out that much more, but really, I ain’t complaining about the way things are in the music…”Holidays” is riotously entertaining.

The birds start chirping to let ya know it’s daylight.  “Weddings” finishes things off with a bittersweet vibe, and it’s the only one where I’m questioning the mix just a little bit more than the others in the set.  On this side of the speakers here, it sounds like the vocals are coming out just a bit on the hot-side of the red-line as “Weddings” begins…which, once you hear where the music reaches in terms of volume, sounds like that loud-on-loud recipe again.  That being said, the crispiness of the mix on the vocals seems to more or less resolve itself by the time we reach the second verse, which is obviously a good thing.  All-in-all, there’s a bit more of an organic & atmospheric sound to “Weddings” that does indeed give it some of its charm too…the whole song feels powerfully unforced.  Like, you can clearly hear the writing in so many of the songs we listen to in this world…and it’s not like “Weddings” isn’t written too, but you notice it less – that make sense?  Richard wasn’t sitting there thinking about things in terms of how necessary a chorus was or a hook etc. etc. – he just went with the moment and what the song itself was calling out for, and I fully respect that.  Not every tune we’re ever going to come up with follows the same formula, and nor should it in my opinion…I like moments like “Weddings” where there’s a bit of an unpredictable structure to it when you listen, at least in comparison to the majority of what’s out there in the world music-wise.  I like the heartbeat sound of the subtlety in the drums, I like the warmth of the glow in the atmosphere of the music and the melody at the core of it all, the sparkle in the guitar, and certainly the ideas in the vocals you’ll hear from Self as well.  Heck, even the ambient sounds of nature and the outdoors play a significant role in this track & what makes it seem as intimate & special as it is.  The last line in this tune will likely have you reaching for a Kleenex or two if you’re listening closely.  I suppose if anything, songwriting-wise, perhaps I’d have stretched that particular moment out for another repetition or two…but I can understand the concept of keeping things concise too, even if I’m not capable of it myself.  In any event, “Weddings” was a good note to go out on…I like the quaintness of this tune, the humble sound it has, and the ideas that Richard puts forth in how he sings it are superb.  Things like volumes and whatnot can always be adjusted eight ways from Sunday and we could debate that stuff all day long as we remix things to the high heavens above…to me, it’s always the ideas that matter most; Richard Self has got plenty of’em.  In fact, he proved that last year with an album full of vibrant ideas that ended up making our top ten list.  He might have begun his career making music back in the late 80s, but in many ways, it feels like he’s just getting warmed up, with his best years still ahead.

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