30 May 2024

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Saint Lane - EP Review: I Thought My Name Was Cursed

07 Sep 2022 // A review by Nicholas Clark
Saint Lane’s newest EP begins with a highly predictable chord progression borrowed from The Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody and exploited in such songs as The Air That I Breathe by the Hollies, I Know It's Over by The Smiths, Magic City by Gorillaz, Underwear by Pulp and perhaps most famously in Radiohead’s Creep. More modern listeners might recognize the chord sequence from The Steven Universe opening theme or perhaps Akon’s rearrangement of Bobby Vinton’s Mr Lonely.

The ukulele gives the false impression that a light hearted song might be on its way, but this is Saint Lane, whose lyrics are often highly personal confessional stories told in a humorous manner.

Immediately I recognized the breathy voice of the 2021 hit Freak, another Gold Coast based musician, Lily Papas. Indeed, she joins Saint Lane (Lane Muir) on the first three songs of this release, offering her sultry tones to create the hook of the song itself and push the songs from trap music associations into shimmery pop territory. Her presence in the commercial end of the EP made me question how much anyone could really call this solely a Saint Lane release.

The first song I Think I’ve Seen This Film Before is really a blend of genres including the aforementioned styles, but there is something akin to reggae present with the ukulele chords weaving in and out while a catchy chorus becomes a shout along. At the end of the song, a stanza is sung by Saint Lane alone with a warbling auto tune, which might make some listeners realize why decision to have Lily Papas on the song was a good one. The chorus lyrics of ‘meet me outside in the pickup truck’ become a little tired by the end, but it's all catchy and playful, even if it's really about being dumped on your birthday.

The lyrics here are similar to earlier releases, with references to the propensity for New Zealanders to wallow in self-depreciation. I am reminded of Toothbrush from the Rainbows End EP, and Hickeys. A Fijian influence remains intact with the inclusion of the ukulele, albeit with the predictable chords.

The second song, Bootleg Jordans reminds me of Kiwi pop artist BENEE. This song utilizes Lily Papas breathy voice also, but here Saint Lanes voice is more tuneful when blended with hers. When he alters his flow into the Atlanta influenced verse, the transition is smoother rather than segmented like the opening track. Again, the lyrics are confessional, this one specifically about not being able to express emotions and preferring to look cool. Just as the song seems ready to shift into a different energy or even just another verse, it disintegrates into a recording of what sounds like Lily Papas playing the song at a much slower tempo accompanied by a gently strummed guitar. The audio is deliberately non-studio recorded, sounding like a voice memo recorded in a kitchen. Although her voice is sweet and the melody tender, I don’t understand why a good song had to end at only two and half minutes in.

Blush continues with the BENEE influenced production. The sounds are spacey and upbeat, but probably too similar to the last track in both tempo and sounds. Perhaps this was the reason for the acoustic break and the false start of Blush; to avoid the listener hearing how similar the adjacent tracks really are. Lyrics such as “crying on a screen, I think I’m waking from a dream”, and “where the fuck did I go wrong” stand out amongst the smooth delivery of their combined voices. This, I believe, should have been the single.

Painting Villains is groovier and brings to mind rappers such as Childish Gambino in delivery and Future in the lyrical subject matter. Lines like ‘tried to kill myself in my bedroom, I can’t follow how my head moves’ make the listener realise, despite the chorus and opening sound effect referencing pot smoking, the song is really about confidence and identity, perhaps imposter syndrome. Here, Saint Lane borrows some of the best aspects of his hit When Did We Grow Up? through remaining firmly in a hip-hop style with lyrics that can be mundanely amusing and disturbing the next moment. The audience is unsure where the story is taking us, and unexpectedly the song swerves off into a warped guitar solo reminiscent of Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

Bad Blood is a slower track, and here Saint Lane’s voice is low and gritty. Auto tuned echoes cascade after the lines which remind me of a J Cole track, but his voice is more mumbly like Lil Wayne, (although throughout the EP, Saint Lane remains a lyrical rapper that can annunciate enough for his audience to hear the words). This track is the most trap like of all, with a sibilant triple high hat pulsing through the bass and auto tune. Then, like Bootleg Jordans, the song stops at barely two minutes in for a long diatribe from none other than the late, great comedian Norm McDonald talking about gambling addiction. When first hearing the track I was sure the sample would end after a few seconds and return to the beat, but instead the sample continues for nearly two minutes finishing the song. Granted, the soliloquy is interesting, but I feel as if another song has been unnecessarily cut off just as it was getting good.

The Sun creates a totally different vibe. A strong electronic beat propels the song into a club banger. Lyrics such as ‘I never seen you lately, you left me in the dark ... I never needed someone, I never seen the sun’ confirm the overall theme of the EP as one where sadness prevails. A heavily effected Nine Inch Nails moment breaks before another guest artist, Maxine sings a verse with a vocoded voice. Then, before anyone could possibly get bored of the beat, it abruptly ends, possibly a little too soon.

The last song, Staring At The Sun is pure Drum ’n’ Bass, and differs from the other songs in that Saint Lane here is less confessional and more energized. The breakbeat here is catchy, if a little traditional, sounding similar to something Rhombus may have produced in the 2000’s.

When he raps ‘got a couple enemies in here it should be fun’ it sounds at least like he is beginning to have some confidence in himself, but it's an odd way to finish the EP, especially considering how personal the majority of the music was that preceded it. At the conclusion of the seven track offering, I’m left feeling a little confused but perhaps that is intended. Life recently has been strange indeed.

I think Saint Lane is a bit of a contradiction. Here, we can hear his love of trap music, (and DnB at the coda) but also pop and club music. While it would be easy to categorize someone like him squarely into hip-hop, there are moments that don’t fit the genre at all. Spoken word samples that dominate the song, guitar driven confessionals, shout along choruses that are only a few instruments away from pop punk... It’s interesting if nothing else.

Then there is his persona. You might be forgiven thinking he is a comedian, like Tyler the Creator, or perhaps a cool operator like Pit Bull (one of his favourite rappers whose influence is seemingly absent from this release). Instead, Saint Lane is more similar to Mac Miller or maybe Big Sean, in that the songs are about the private becoming public and are, hopefully, therapeutic to the artist.

I’m sure that there are many who will continue to enjoy the unique music he can offer. Songs such as The Sun and Blush could well turn into popular tracks despite my misgivings. Themes of movies, dreams, drug taking, confidence (or lack thereof) and the sun as a metaphor leak from song to song joining these into a type of coherent whole. On the cover, Saint Lane is represented multiple times in a roller coaster with death who bares his name. It feels perhaps that these various expressions of himself don’t need to really connect to one another as they travel on the ride of life, but represent the different aspects of a multitalented performer who is interested in a wide range of music. Although he is already a successful artist who will no doubt find many admirers of his latest release, my advice would be to focus what blends of styles work best and to refine it. But perhaps that’s not what his fans enjoy and the format of an EP itself is perhaps the wrong medium for anyone to appreciate his talents. I would guess that so long as there is a slightly amusing music video that accompanies his songs, the illusion of Saint Lane being a comedian will continue as will his success.

Rating: ( 2 / 5 )

About Saint Lane

Weekends in South Korea with Rick Ross, pandemic touring with Lime Cordiale and an impromptu stand-up set at the biggest comedy festival in the world. There’s only one Saint Lane.

The Fijian Kiwi who now resides on the Gold Coast has been releasing music under various pseudonyms for over the years. His first band Clashing Colours released their debut record with Jimmy Ivoine’s Interscope back in 2010 though he had been hustling his music long before that.

After brief stints of success in various projects including a Top 5 viral song on Spotify with his duo Lane-Harry x Ike Campbell, Lane went solo and signed a record deal with iconic dance label Ministry of Sound becoming Saint Lane. In 2019, the sudden and unexpected death of Lane’s father led to the creation of his 2020 EP If I Leave You In The Fire which accumulated over one million streams.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Saint Lane


I Thought My Name Was Cursed
Year: 2022
Type: Album

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