Posted on: October 28, 2020 Posted by: James McQuiston Comments: 0

Shayne Cook’s Epiphonetics is a welcome addition to a tumultuous year. Creativity continues thriving despite an ongoing pandemic claiming untold lives and this, if nothing else, confirms some aspect of mankind’s eternal optimism. The circles and cycles of life continue to spin, the world does not grind to a complete halt, and the human heart is subject to the same litany of travails, joys, lunacies, and peaks it experiences through its waking life. Cook writes about a wide variety of subjects, but his point of view is uniformly adult throughout these nine songs. Cook is at a far different place in his artistic development than many other debuting musicians/songwriters and makes a case for being one of the brightest new talents emerging in recent years.


He begins Epiphonetics with the track “The Stawell Gift”. A regular element of Cook’s songwriting is how he is willing to step outside his self as a lyricist and portray the experiences outside his own. This is a rare quality. The writing remains close to the bone, however, as the track dramatizes what his dad went through as an adoptee and orphan. I love the piano riff running through this song, but the singing is every bit as effective. “Blood” seems to hew much closer to Cook’s own experiences and the guitar playing possesses relaxed elegance. It is emotional with just the right amount of notes, assertive without ever sounding abrasive, and stands out as one of the musical high points included on Epiphonetics.

The waltz pacing of “Matters of the Heart” strikes a traditional note and Cook follows through with that impulse. I am a great fan of twelve string guitar and Cook puts it to good use during this performance, but producer Simon Moro’s ideas for the track help send it to another level. Adding strings to the performance expands his emotional purview and Cook’s voice capably responds to that challenge.

“Disaster Yet” is another pinnacle on this release. Superlatives fail me describing this track, but Cook’s lyrical depiction of romantic skirmishes ultimately resolving themselves. It’s an intelligent though indirect rebuff to the idea that the album’s mood is downcast and the song’s lofty musical landscape will leave few, if any, satisfied. “City Fire Lights” is a poetic look inward for Cook, but it is a cut above your standard sophomoric secondary school scribbles. It is true, to a certain extent, that Cook has co-opted the sound of some more famous artists, but he puts a distinctive stamp on each song. This track is much closer to Cook’s heart than most and the attentiveness he lavishes on its lyric further elevate it.


He’s already experienced some airplay for the track “Back to Love” and it’s easy to hear why. Its infectious rhythm hooks you early and Cook summons an unexpected percussive quality to his voice. There are some unique instrumental touches bring additional color to “Ritual” and it works as a potent ending to the album. I cannot help but be impressed how adeptly Cook incorporates poetic attributes into these songs without ever coming off ham-fisted. Epiphonetics is a release well worth your time.

Kim Muncie

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