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A Magazine for Sheffield

Iron EP

Sheffield-based songwriter Joe Banfi has enjoyed a great rise in prominence over the past year, due in part to his captivating live performances. His latest EP is mostly recorded with the same minimal instrumentation you might find in such shows, with subtle washes of colour added by cello and percussion that accentuates what's already there without taking over. It does, however, have moments of higher drama, where a combination of full kit percussion and effects on instrumentation lend an extra energy to match the dynamism of the vocals.

Opener 'Guts and Bones' sets things off nicely, starting with sparse broken chords and affected strings alongside the lonely voice of Banfi, before the entry of a pleasantly lilting guitar line brings things up to speed. Banfi's lyrics, occasionally a weak point in the past, have improved on this record, with a mixture of abstracted imagery sitting nicely alongside more directly personal lines such as the main hook: 'Show yourself useful / Not just guts and bones.'

Banfi then gives us an adaptation of American folk standard 'Where Did You Sleep Last Night'. This is set in a different mode than the traditional song, with suspended chords hovering between minor and major. It's obviously subjective, but I feel Banfi suffered a little on this track from the weight of past renditions. With so many pained versions, it seems like Banfi has tried to inject almost too much emotion into the song, and the intensity of his voice which creates such tension elsewhere seems slightly forced on this track. It's a shame, as it is quite a novel take on such an established classic.

'See You At Home' is a little more restrained, the guitar line and voice standing alone at first. The interwoven melodies of the vocals and cello sit nicely in this track, and again Banfi shows a new maturity in his lyrics.

Finishing number and title track 'Iron' is probably the strongest on the record, building again from just guitar and voice into something really quite epic. The double tracked vocal definitely has a Bon Iver feel to it at the beginning, but Banfi makes his mark firmly by the second verse as the song builds in a steady crescendo and his gritty voice is let loose with full intensity after a touching lyrical refrain of 'It must be your taste / There's still something I find in this place'; a reference to a lover, but perhaps also to the constant threads that run through Banfi's music that survive each evolution, and provide that raw emotion that makes his work so captivating.