Analogue Music | Joshua Hyslop - Embers EP
Joshua Hyslop: Embers

Joshua Hyslop: Embers

Artist: Joshua Hyslop · Written by Matt Conner

Date Released

7 February, 2020



Joshua Hyslop's latest is par for the course, which is, of course, exactly where we want him.

A Canadian singer-songwriter, Hyslop has released a new EP, Embers (Nettwerk Records), as simple and satisfying as the rest of his catalog to date. There's a wheelhouse here, and Hyslop stays beautifully within it on this all-too-short set of new songs intended to tide fans over with a bit more music after 2018's Echos.

If you're new to Hyslop's music, take the acoustic beauty of Sam Beam and William Fitzsimmons and lighten things just a bit. Hyslop isn't quite so introspective as the latter or experimental as the former, but it's amazing how Hyslop can wield an instrument so common in the hands of a million self-described musicians and make it resonate with such delightful depth.

Embers begins with "Something More," a song that almost fools the listener into believing it's an instrumental given its minute-and-a-half opening, but soon enough Hyslop steps once more into the lovely tension that occupies most of his compositions. "I am my beloved’s. Beloved, are you mine?" Eight words paint a picture of a heart unassuredly on a sleeve, asking and seeking in the universal search for belonging and security.

The tension unfolds in a different way on Embers highlight track, "Behind the Light." It's a pastoral search for what went wrong in a romantic relationship, with cascading finger-picking setting the musical stage for Hyslop to wade through the questions plaguing his mind. "Well, there is something I can't explain / Something burning behind the light / No, it's not that I spoke in vain / Just my words never came out right."

What's interesting here is that the acoustic approach doesn't betray the sentiments here. Rather it matches Hyslop's lyrical tone. Love lost doesn't mean lover scorned, and Hyslop sounds grateful for the journey, even one that's ended unexpectedly. Take a listen to the closing refrain: "In my heart I know I've played the fool / But it was alright when I was playing it for you."

We trust him not to guide us out of the tension but to live with us in it.

What's most interesting about Embers is what it says about Hyslop's most confident stance. "Ash & Stone" is the EP's closing track, a lyrical flag planted in the ground standing up to some unknown foe or force as Hyslop sings:

Oh, here I stand
On the edge again
And I will not fall
I will not move at all
Let the rocks come crashin' down

Yet the story behind the song gives away the nervous heart behind it. Hyslop says, "I started working on this song on tour when I'd start to feel down or worried or anxious, as a way of writing myself some hope. It's my own way of telling myself to hang in there and to keep moving forward." In short, the convincing mantra is really self-talk, a way to deal with living in such tension at all times—the introvert on the stage, the nerves in the spotlight, the questions presented to an audience seeking answers themselves.

Here is why and where we love Hyslop's music—and why we hope he doesn't plan on moving from this setting anytime soon. We trust him not to guide us out of the tension but to live with us in it. There are no answers for our wrestling, save for the heartening knowledge that we're not the only ones in the struggle.

VISIT: Joshua Hyslop