Gallant probes unhealed wounds in “Scars,” a pained but quick-stepping track from his new EP, Neptune.
Much of the eight-song set is devoted to a strain of R&B that flourished two decades ago. Several of these songs — especially “No More Tries,” a slick duet with Van Jess that captures a relationship on the verge of collapse — build around coiling, meticulous guitar lines, a backbone of so many late-1990s and early-2000s hits. You hear the influence of Maxwell (“Relapse”) and Usher (“Comeback”) — as well as the presence of Brandy, who appears on the EP singing breathy, acrobatic lines about planets in retrograde.
This makes the metronomic charge of “Scars” an outlier on the EP. The track opens with sustained notes on a synthesizer, a gentle flood of melody. But then the drums lurch forward, splintering into an angrily ticking hoard of sixteenth notes. Both the singing and the rhythm pick up speed, but the percussion seems to move twice as quickly; it’s a simple trick, and an effective one.
Gallant throws in a few other devices to add gravity to his heartbreak: solemn strings, powerful falsetto backing vocals modestly tucked away behind the lead, the slightest of pauses before he sings the title word, like he can’t bear to revisit his suffering without a mental hiccup. “I’m moving on, I’m moving on,” Gallant promises. “But you left me with scars.”
Neptune came out on Friday. It’s Gallant’s first release as an independent artist after a stint at Warner Records.
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