2 years after winning Triple J’s Unearthed High contest and capturing a countless number of hearts with her song ‘Drive’, Gretta Ray has released her second EP: ‘Here and Now’. On this release, Gretta’s sound is even more mature and polished than it already was, but no less emotional or enthralling.
The strongest feature of this EP by far is Ray’s voice, both in the melodies she writes for it and her performances, which, at their best, are both absolutely stunning. She begins with casual, endearing lows in the verses, before ascending to dazzling highs in the choruses. There’s not a single hook on this album which doesn’t feature an instantly memorable tune and a truly enchanting performance from the singer as she drenches every single word in authentic, believable passion.
Her verses often start off in a more subdued state, with her voice sauntering through stripped back instrumentation and a laidback groove. Whilst this means the songs are not ear-grabbing from the first note, everything starts to come together so harmoniously as they progress that the wait for the chorus is made all the more rewarding, and it’s near-impossible not to be enamoured with the tracks by a certain point. ‘A View Like This’ is probably the clearest example of this, taking more than half of its duration to get to the first hook, but hitting a sweet spot that renders the wait worthwhile when it does so.
There are points on the EP when Gretta’s lyrics come across as a tad too wordy or convoluted, but they’re significantly outweighed by the instances of pure genius in her words. There are vehement expressions of romantic feelings, (“stars aligning in the rarest of forms, so let your bedroom be our port in a storm”) poignant reflections on lost love (“I was taller than a tower in your sight, so not I’m not afraid of heights”), and heart-wrenching details about deteriorating relationships (“I never thought you’d go out of your way to stay out of mine”).
Instrumentally, ‘Here and Now’ doesn’t stray too far from the traditional singer-songwriter territory, though there are some great moments to be heard in the instrumentals. The song ‘Time’ holds many of these moments, with the repeated, muffled piano line bringing about a certain whimsy that heightens the emotions in the lyrics, and the electric guitar lick that enters towards the end adding to the infectiousness of the track’s chord progression.
The clear instrumental highlight on the EP, however, is the gorgeous string arrangements that appear on a few tracks. Whether they’re building the intensity on ‘When We’re in Fitzroy’ and ‘Towers’ or soaring above the rest of the instrumentation with picturesque melodic lines in ‘Blue Minded’, they never feel misused or underdeveloped.
Though the rest of the EP is far from forgettable, the standout of this release – and of Gretta’s entire discography thus far – is still ‘Drive’. It’s a truly euphoric song that is by far the best of its kind that an Australian artist has produced in quite some time. The admirable qualities of Gretta’s lyrics and singing that run throughout the EP are at their most prevalent on this song, as she perfectly summates what it means to be young and hopelessly infatuated with someone. The instrumentation progresses perfectly, and the chorus becomes more spectacular with each recurrence, with the final refrain being particularly captivating thanks to the build up that precedes it (“All the world is still, hands on the wheel” remains one of my favourite musical moments in recent memory). Simply put, it’s as close to a perfect song as you can get.
‘Here and Now’ hits the nail on the head in so many ways that it’s hard to focus on its weaknesses at all. What Gretta Ray manages to achieve on this EP is nothing to be scoffed at, and it’s something that will (hopefully) cement her as one of the most exciting young talents Australia has to offer.