Music the Bittersweet EP

Joshua Ketchmark-The Bittersweet EP

Singer-songwriter Joshua Ketchmark won a cult audience with his 2008 release "List of Regrets.” Following that release, there was a relatively long gap before he returned with his second full-length, "Karus Cruentus." For his third release, Ketchmark opted to try something a little different: rather than leave things too long and wait until the next full record was ready to go, he decided that his next works should be split into a series of EP releases. In a world where physical CD sales are on the downturn and people are picking and choosing selected tracks for their portable music devices, releasing a few tracks at a time certainly seems like a good idea.

The first of these EPs, "The Bittersweet"-released in the first quarter of 2012- features four top class tunes. The opening number "Covered in Roses" is a superb piece of adult pop/rock which showcases a fair amount of Ketchmark's talent. The guitars ring clearly throughout, and the mid-paced riffs offer something of an atmosphere that could best be described as vaguely U2-ish. Ketchmark's relatively soft vocal is full of emotion while never overstretching itself and this already makes good listening. By the time the chorus chimes in, things improve farther; it's immediately obvious that Mr. Ketchmark not only knows how to write and arrange a great tune, he also understands what makes a great radio hook. Combined with those reverbed guitars on show throughout, the hook has a really classic sound, using its late80s/early 90s influences to create something quite rousing. "All These Eyes" has a similar huge rock/pop feel at its core, though with one big difference; the U2-styled guitar parts are gone; in their place, some solid acoustic work backed by a fairly weighty sounding drum part. The chorus beefs things up to some rather safe-sounding, radio-friendly soft rock, which although could never be described as edgy is well played and superbly produced. Overall another good example of the kind of rock/pop Ketchmark does so well. {If you like either of these tracks, be sure to check out Dom Liberati's album too}.

The other two songs change the mood a great deal. "The Take" presents something more in an alternative rock vein, but retains a shiny commercial edge. With a choppy riff, Ketchmark adopts a sound which borrows elements from Jimmy Eat World and American HiFi, melding the punchy elements with another great pop chorus. Across four minutes, his band sounds sharp as he delivers a vocal with a slight sneer which suits the piece well. Like most of the 2011 release by New Jersey outfit Readymade Breakup, this is hugely radio friendly and ought to appeal to a great many fans of the poppiest end of alt-rock music. "Cigarettes & Wine” leaves things on a gentle, somewhat downbeat note. Over a piano base, Ketchmark's emotive vocal sounds great once again. However, as good as his vocal may be, it's not as great as the sound of his backing band: the bass is hugely warm, the steady drum beat has a huge presence and the harmony vocals add depth without being overdone or sounding showy, while a selection of keyboards flesh things out farther with string sounds. Better still, the occasional moments of acoustic lead guitar have a great presence. The end result here is not only testament to Ketchmark's skill as a writer/musician, but also Denny Smith's production which is absolutely spot on.

With such a feel-good punchiness, "The Take" would be enough to warrant checking this out, but since it's joined by three almost equally good numbers, "The Bittersweet" presents a great exercise in quality over quantity. With no obvious weak elements, this is a highly recommended listen.