Music is often considered one of the most powerful ways to express emotion and communicate feelings that can’t be said in conversation. Though it seems that some skirt around this and produce generic, meaningless songs, it takes someone fearless to truly put it all out there. Someone such as Lontalius.
The singer-songwriter – real name Eddie Johnston – has already gained a lot of attention even though this is his album debut. Though this isn’t to say he’s new to the game; he’s been writing songs in his native New Zealand for years now, making him a fitting candidate to take on the hefty themes that come with teenage emotion and growing up.
I’ll Forget 17 – which is now streaming online ahead of its Friday release – is perhaps best summarised as 10 tracks of vulnerability and personal expression, filtered onto a calming alt-indie backdrop. The lead track, ‘All I Wanna Say’, is an ideal opener: the intro hums of quirky innocence, before leading us into a dark, atmospheric territory with subtle R&B undertones – much like the transition between youth and adulthood. “All I wanna say is it’ll be alright / Maybe I shoulda lied”, he sings, one of very few lyrics that crop up throughout the song. Yet the looping of lyrics makes perfect sense, beautifully representing the cyclical, often overthought nature of emotions. Between his melancholic vocals and the stirring piano and strings intervals, Lontalius paints a portrait of heartache, confusion, and emotional turmoil – something most will go through at some stage.
‘Glow’ is noticeably sunnier, its melodies lifting the spirit and mimicking the overwhelming happiness that comes with young romance, despite the seemingly disparate feelings – and consequently, sounds – that come either side of it. ‘It’s Not Love’, the track that follows, brings you back down to earth, the pace slowing and the lyrics grounding: “It sinks into your head / Hell it hurts but it’s not love”. It’s downcast, but Lontalius has a way of transforming it into a thing of beauty. He leads us out with ‘Yr Heart is Beating’, a mellow number that gives the spotlight to an array of guitar instrumentals that relax the mind.
Listening to his music, you find yourself empathising with Johnston, and yet all the while his music makes it feel like he’s the one empathising with you. The key to Lontalius lies not only in his calming sound, nor in his acceptance of vulnerability, but in his overall, unquestionable relatability. And isn’t that what everybody wants from music?
Pre-order I’ll Forget 17, out on March 25th via Partisan Records. Feature image by Rob Burrowes.