Label: Blue Flowers Music
Released: May 2021
Puma Blue was a name I first heard 5 years ago. He was making waves during a time when the South London scene was drowned in a sombre static. He was and has remained as one of those eclectic artists who has combined all the phases of his musical journey and produced a definitive sound for himself, which rings true in pre-album live drop 'A Late Night Special EP' in which themes of romance, angst, contemplation, and longing flow over a 26-minute tracklist.
Opening Trip Hop/early XX-inspired track ‘Sweet Love’ delves into the isolating emotions following a communication breakdown. The lyrics and vocal delivery lie carefully atop reverb heavy guitar and compressed keys before a smooth transition of piano chords shift from dwelling to a larger emotional presence in and around the chorus.
Second track 'Cherish (furs)' looks back retrospectively on undervaluing someone’s presence in our lives. The first minute is choral, and we could interpret the multi-layered harmonies as representation of the muse’s varied emotions toward the situation. Interpreting their emotional perspective not only supplements a previous lack of recognition but is also demonstrative of taking accountability for one's actions toward another.
'Already Falling' is a sweet & intoxicating song that revolves around falling in love with the core of someone and their lasting impact. It seems to pull inspiration from the earlier work of King Krule as far as chord arrangement and lyrics are concerned, blending both into a syrupy sweet cocktail. Amidst the serenity that flows throughout is a thread of heartache expressed most in the chorus -
"And I’m never gonna hear your tones bleed through,
I’m already falling in love with the shape of you,
With the shape of you"
As I’m contemplating these lyrics, they symbolise impermanence and the fact that our essence is intangible thus cannot be contained. Alternatively, they imply that the object of affection may exist only in a fantasy realm and that it is merely the idea of this person that is being obsessed over.
On to the project’s rowdy single ‘Oil Slick’. The track follows a more dismantled structure due to its myriad of genres from the overarching Britpop sound, to pockets of DnB in the frantic bpm and drum pattern. I love how gritty the song sounds, it takes on the energy of sweaty underground raves and packed concert venues.
We revisit vulnerability with a tinge of sadism in the fifth track ‘Silk Print’. The theme follows a break up in which frontman Jacob Allen narrates his discomfort with facing himself, now that he’s alone. He toys with the idea of returning to the relationship despite the significant other's behaviour remaining unchanged - seemingly the contributing factor to their dissolution. Contrastingly, however, the lyric “I’m stuck here in my own special hell” veers toward solidarity contentment. Attaching ‘special’ to hell reads like an oxymoron.
Why would there be this attraction toward situating oneself in such heavy emotional landscapes? Surely this is a place we would actively try to overcome. I think Allen’s reasoning for positioning these 2 words together, is to imply that both parties contributed to each other's unhealthy traits, which they veiled in luxury and romance. Moreover, the open vulnerability of ‘Silk Print’ exposes those more shadowy details in our personalities which, whether we like to admit it or not, can get overly attached to pain.
Closing track ‘Only trying 2 tell U’ portrays Allen’s difficulty in voicing specific sentiments, in spite of producing this emotionally comprehensive piece. What strikes me about this song, and the entirety of the project is the relatability of expressing one's feelings on a musical level, but struggling to translate them into ‘real’ life contexts and scenarios. The imperfect piano playing and vinyl crackle sound create a spacious effect that adds a personable element where the listener feels like they’re hearing the song live.
This EP is an honest outpouring wrapped up in Jazz and underground UK nuance. It confidently strides between emotional profundity and polarity, reminding us of how our minds and hearts can cascade. The band captures that dusky late night atmosphere of concert venues really well, and their tight yet imperfect playing reinforces their indie origins.