Shannen James – ‘Arrows’ review: a slice of indie pop sunshine that stokes anticipation for an LP

The Melbourne singer-songwriter’s debut EP adds modern sparkle and character to a tried and tested sound

It’s hard to believe we’ve spent half a year in isolation, but as the weather turns and the sun begins to peek through the windows once again, music reminds us that there are things to look forward to. Enter ‘Arrows’, the debut EP from Melbourne’s Shannen James – a hopeful soundtrack for the months to come.

The young singer-songwriter announces herself with these six radio-friendly tracks, showcasing a knack for melody and a personal spin on the familiar. There are obvious influences and points of comparison – the call-and-response vocals on ‘Empty Eyes’ recall Haim, while the grungy crunch of the title track’s guitars wouldn’t sound out of place on an Angie McMahon record – but to call it strictly derivative would be a disservice. James fits neatly into an emerging school of songwriters who take their cues from the best parts of classic ’70s bands, adding modern sparkle and character to a tried and tested sound.

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These songs package sunshine into three-minute slices that also provide peeks into James’ emotional world. Though the subject matter sometimes veers into the obvious – hopes, dreams, life’s uncertainty – it’s done with such earnestness that it hardly feels trite. A common theme throughout the record is nostalgia and the desire to hold onto particular moments. The unabashedly flirtatious ‘Seventeen’ harks back to innocent days, bolstered by slick, playful production that encourages seamless dialogue between James’ breezy vocals and the punchy musical accompaniment.

The singer knows the value of a good chorus, and equally knows when to hold back – it’s in the quieter verse moments that the listener can reflect before a catchy hook pulls them right back in. She sounds as comfortable belting out a singalong chorus as she does singing a restrained and emotional song like closer ‘Golden’, written about the passing of her grandmother. That track’s glittering, reverb-drenched guitars are overlaid by James’ ethereal vocals, floating the listener along as if in a dream. ‘Golden’ is the only entirely slow, introspective number on ‘Arrows’, though; a more equal mix of this style and upbeat festival pleasers may have benefited the EP, if only to further explore the singer’s vulnerabilities.

With summer just around the corner, ‘Arrows’ is a delightful collection of indie pop bound to lift weary lockdown spirits. There’s nothing particularly surprising or new on this EP, but James proves her songwriting chops by delivering bright, heartfelt joy in spades – if this is anything to go by, a full-length recording will go down a treat.

Details

Shannen James Arrows EP review
  • Release date: September 25
  • Record label: Ivy League Records
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