REVIEW: Rory D’Lasnow — Songs From An Empty Room (EP)

Melodicism is the foundation of Rory D’Lasnow’s sound, and in the new EP Songs From An Empty Room, he reminds listeners why it’s important to put more stock in simplicity than it ever is complicated compositions. From the sweet “Happy” to the inelegant pleas of “Forgotten,” every track in Songs From An Empty Room stands as a testament to natural skill, not synthesized harmonies and plasticized hooks. D’Lasnow plays like an elite here, but more importantly, he sounds like an artist who lives the story of his songwriting rather than simply projecting a concept he wishes was his own.

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The lyrics contained in songs like “Where You Belong” and “Forgotten” don’t just touch on intimate subject matter; they’re thoughtful in a sense of being relatable and personal at the same time. We’re never made to feel like we’re listening to a fantasy; D’Lasnow’s recollections are clear and quite insular in spots, but never to the extent of sounding removed from the audience. His protagonist in “Happy” could just as easily be one of us as it is him, which isn’t something I’ve been hearing in the ever-constricted poetry of the alternative singer/songwriter movement in the 2020s.

D’Lasnow isn’t alone in generating a lot of magic in this mix; tracks like “I Won’t Do Anything” feature chemistry with his backing band that is all too uncommon among his peers right now. there’s nothing disjointed about the harmonies here, nor any pseudo-experimental links between otherwise conflictive aesthetical tent poles in Songs From An Empty Room — this is what cohesive pop songcraft is supposed to look and sound like, and I highly doubt many critics would disagree. He might not have been trying to accomplish as much, but this player reshapes his identity in this EP to the point of making his detractors seem very unfamiliar with who he really is.

Songs From An Empty Room was mixed as to feel a little chaotic in spots, particularly the transition between tracks like “I Won’t Do Anything” and “Happy,” but this only serves to play into D’Lasnow’s greater goal here. There’s a big picture to consider in these five songs, and it’s illustrated within the differences we hear from one track to the next as much as it is the lyrical commonalities binding every shorthand yarn with the one beside it. That’s progressive composing, sans the filler and theatrics normally associated with the term.

If this is just a sneak preview of what Rory D’Lasnow’s upcoming output is going to sound like, my gut tells me his name will be turning up in the headlines a lot more often as the years ahead unfold. He’s the perfect 360-degree singer/songwriter in this piece, blending elements of rock, folk, indie Americana, and a touch of progressive conceptualism to make every stitch of audio he presents feel righteous and heartfelt, and when placed side by side with his rivals on the mainstream side of the dial, I think it’s undeniable that he has the edge on his challengers right now.

Colin Jordan