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You might already know a little about Melisa Bester, a.k.a E^ST. Last Friday the central coast teenager (yes, another supremely talented 17 year-old) performed on triple J’s Like A Version, managing to combine, and abso-fucking-lutely smash, The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony and Massive Attack’s Teardrop into the one cover along with able help from her band. It was bold and it was brilliant, coming off the release of her second EP, The Alley which follows last year’s Old Age record. One thing that was evident on that debut was that she already sounded like a confident, established artist
With her tender, soulful vocals E^ST ushers lost souls into her embrace on a triumphantly lush EP that makes bittersweet an emotion.
Lots of people can sing well but it’s obvious she has serious songwriting ability that stretch beyond her young years. On The Alley, nothing much changed in that respect. Musically, however there’s a difference. This EP still has the pure infectious indie pop vibe of her debut but the production level has gone up a notch. This record sounds, and this may be the wrong word, but it sounds fancier, like it’s wearing that bit of extra bling. Synth waves, subterranean effects, and thoroughly addictive beats abound on this ethereal, poetic record.
There’s no denying Bester’s vocals either, they’re certainly a weapon. Just when you dig right into that deep soulful head-tingler of a voice she springs a whole different, higher, range on you. It takes her track Disappear into another stratosphere, rising up into a crescendo and leaves us floating somewhere up above. There’s almost no fault to be had with this as a pop song. It progresses so naturally and has a killer chorus to boot.
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As she’s done previously, E^ST addresses some deep, mature themes in her songs, searching for answers to questions that are probably impossible to answer. This lends an incredible sadness to some moments, especially on tracks like Monster, in which she sings “What should I do to make sense/My mind is a monster/ I can’t tame it though I want to/ Why do I feel like I’m just not working?” In this song there’s a desperate edge to her voice and the beat is a perfect foil for it. A definite highlight, the vulnerability is utterly tangible here.
The EP as a whole is a slightly tragic trek through a troubled, but obviously beautiful psyche. Somebody Else continues this trend of wanting to change something about yourself for one reason or another, either to please other people or because of your own demons. Tenderness could very well be personified on her vocal chord in this one. The material is so relatable and conveyed simply, relying on her tone and the music to add depth. It all melds perfectly to create suitably melancholic pop.
Lead single The Alley is the most upbeat – musically at least – track of the record. It races along with frantic pace, an almost breathless intensity added to by inhuman backing vocals that invoke a sense of alienation. While it heads the record and doesn’t detract in any way, the other three tracks are more for me personally but ultimately the EP only confirms what we probably already knew.