01 March 2018 (released)
16 April 2018
Released on the same day as the slightly longer Peninsula, the EP When Love's a Stranger is not drastically different in style but merely takes on a slower, more deliberate pace and a more personal tone overall. Magical Beasts still sit in their 'Sunday night on the porch' mood delivering a warm, sleepy form of Americana. The EP also leaves behind the brass accompaniment of Peninsula, distilling down the bluegrass notes to put the focus squarely on the harmonica and guitars, both acoustic and pedal steel.
'New York' opens the EP with a sleepy, dilatory pace. Suspended chords hang like memories hooked on coat hangers at the homestead. Sweetly swelling pedal steel and wistful harmonica complete a rich trifecta all while a calmly, persisting bass keeps us from getting completely swept away in recollections. The lyrics lament an absent lover and turn a city into the personification of them in that moment of time. Bittersweet thoughts and tough decisions. There's an aching, not the kind from a betrayal or a loss of love but that ache from knowing that what's best in the end, is not the decision that your heart is telling you. It's refreshing to hear a song that explores these themes without getting wrapped up in anger or blame. Sometimes, things just happen.
The title track has a slight spring in its step though still light on its feet. The tune gives tribute to the rebirth of spring and coming to find love again after a winter break. A gang chorus comes in to support the protagonist, reviving the spirit of hope and optimism. The quick ditty is a catchy, uplifting track. 'Someone to Lift the Blue' flutters with delightful fingerpicked guitar. Singer Nathan Paulus' meandering vocals are reminiscent of Bob Dylan's romantic acoustic numbers that are unclouded by his usual overbearing cloud of cynicism. This is a tale of clouds parting and a new love appearing.
When Love's a Stranger is a fantastic little record. Emotionally complex, patient and thoughtful. Youthful enough to be hopeful yet mature and wise enough to see beyond the next step down the road. These stories are scored by some absolutely gorgeous, tasteful musicianship. Particularly, the interplay between Paulus' harmonica and Ethan Pikas' pedal steel guitar.