Synth EP Review: "Inverted" by Strike Eagle
Strike Eagle’s latest EP Inverted combines Graham Waller’s lyrics, ear catching synth melodies and the intricate, skillful guitar playing of Ben Higgins along with strong guest vocals from Lisa Avon. The album combines ‘80s pop and rock influences with sharp, clean production and the lyrics add another layer of interest to the music.
Graham Waller is a songwriter with an enjoyable turn of phrase and a skill for creating lyrics that deliver clear images and ideas to the listener. It also helps that he’s got a strong, full voice that reminds me of some of the male New Wave vocalists in the ‘80s. He can put a cold edge into his singing or burst with pop warmth. Either way, he stamps himself on Inverted and certainly made a strong impression on me. On top of these factors, he is also someone who has an ear for melody and for choosing the right synths and sounds for each track.
I do have to give a shoutout to his collaborators on the recording as well. Lisa Avon contributes vocals to “Golden Hour” that shine with warmth and emotion. There’s a certain richness to her voice and the way it rises and soars is contrasted with her ability to add a certain gentle quality as well. Ben Higgins is a talented guitarist who can sing, fly and shred. He has a deft touch and I love the soaring feeling that many of his solos possess.
Graham Waller has utilized some unique percussion sounds on the album too. It isn’t all Linndrum and toms, but there are other more interesting sounding percussion instruments and they make the beats feel more individual and not like a cookie cutter DAW addition. I can always get behind diverse sounds on a recording especially when they add atmosphere and groove.
Track by Track Breakdown
"Electric Donuts" opens with some fun chip tune sounds. Right away, Ben Higgins’ electric guitar is doubled playing a powerful, singing melody that I found pretty addictive. I enjoy how the track has a heartbeat and the guitar chops are epic as the track climbs to higher levels of energy. This is guitar playing at its wild, intricate and shredding best. I felt that this track was pretty triumphant in nature.
The groovy, funky feeling of “Walk My Way” made me want to shake my body. Graham Waller’s voice is full of energy and expression. I like the chiming synth part that sparkles and shines over the solid groove of the music. It captures the ‘80s sound nicely with the guitar lick that kicks through the music. The middle section slows down and flows more smoothly as rising bright synths move behind the vocals, again climbing and soaring over the beat. I like the sax as well, it has just the right mix of passion and retro vibes.
The lyrics have some great images in them such as,”I saw a flash across the room. Your sequin dress, moving into the light. I was daydreaming, you hypnotized me and “through the haze, I walk across the floor. Hungry eyes as you move in closer.”
This is a track with a good pop feeling to them, although it’s pretty sexy pop. I thought that the chorus was fun as Graham Waller sings, “Are you gonna walk my way? Smiling at me, shakin’ ya body. Are you gonna make my day?”
Perhaps the most intense line in the song is, “I’m motionless, you lay your hands on me. Face to face, we need no words now.” It pretty much captures the mood of this song right there.
“Strange Addiction” has a classic synth pop vocal melody that makes me think of New Wave bands In Graham Waller’ delivery. I enjoy the slamming metallic hammering sound adds a different dimension to the music along with the delicate arpeggios that spin under the vocals of the track. I am also a fan of the trumpet part because it adds a jazzy sensibility to the music, ramping up the energy levels on the track.
This is a song about the contradictory, powerful sensations a deep attraction can make us feel. The lines, “The way my skin crawls, I can’t cope. And in time, I’ll get my peace of mind. You’re irresistible. Is your smile hot or cold?” encapsulate those complex emotions nicely.
There’s sometimes a feeling of unreality about those intense emotional connections which the chorus sums up in the words,” You’re my strange addiction now. Like a drug, you’re in my veins. Is this real? Or is it just fantasy? You and me?”
We might know a particular connection is going to be trouble and still pursue it. Graham Waller captures that feeling in the lines. “I promised myself I’d leave you in the morning. The voice of reason on my shoulder, but with a look I just roll over.”
The gliding drumbeat was the first thing that caught my ear on “Golden Hour.” The next thing to draw me in was Lisa Avon’s singing. I enjoy how much emotion Lisa Avon pumps into her performance and the vocal melody itself has an uplifting and motivating feeling to it. I was soothed by the airy smoothness and slide to the music as the bass oscillates and pulses through the song. I like the general feeling of bursting energy and warmth that moves through the song.
This is another song about contrasts and contradictions. The lines that open the song capture the depth of emotion in their words, “Golden hour. Glow like an angel. With foreboding power I could have sworn I’ve been here before. Leave me a light on. Leave me a light or a naked flame will do.”
Despite that golden light, there are shadows as the words, “Just don’t let the darkness come in at once. I wouldn’t let your darkness come in at once. I’m no stranger to shadows” indicate. The way the bright energy of the music contrasts with the lyrics is well illustrated in the lines, “Golden hour. Glows like an angel. Hypnotise me. Tread carefully, she’s so unstable.”
Somehow in spite of the darkness, there’s something soothing as the lyrics say, “Bring your night on. Let it be a cradle. Rock me carefully to sleep.”
“The Maze” has a strong New Wave synthpop feeling to it. It has that quality of darkness that was part of the best New Wave music in between the tense arpeggios that ratchet up the tension, the mysterious and shadowed vocals and the words of the song itself. I find the guitar compelling as it sings and calls out, impassioned and tinged by shaded feelings and a little sadness. I also liked the pulsing quality to the beat of this song.
The feeling of being trapped in a relationship is clearly illustrated in this song. The lyrics, “Close my eyes. Fears play back to me. I fall down on my knees. Muscles tensing, heart is racing and I’m choking on your lies” powerfully drives the point home.
There’s a feeling of desperation in the lines, “Who let them in? The demons made of stone. I’d fight but I’m alone” and the horrible sensation of being in a maze of mirrors is illustrated in the words, “Aware of something I can’t see, haunting me. Mirrors at every turn, my reflection makes me yearn for a time where I felt safe.”
The final lines of the song are powerful as they say, “I complicate and overthink, try to escape this ball and chain. Your lies weighing on me.”
Inverted is one of those recordings that seem fuller than their play time would suggest. The intertwining musical elements lock into a solid mixture of synthpop and rock sensibilities with a good dose of New Wave feeling for good measure. Graham Waller produces strong imagery and his guests solid performances add to the overall high quality of the EP.