Words by Evan Crandell @ec_onthe1
The electronic pop duo Empathy Test has returned with a moody yet sonically explosive new EP entitled By My Side. Vocalist Isaac Howlett and producer Adam Relf have put together four tracks, featuring the title track and b-side “Vampire Town,” with remix treatments by New Portals and Papertwin, that will be released in full on February 17.
“By My Side” features big, sweeping production from Relf as Howlett sings about hurt lovers in a dysfunctional relationship. He writes of the push and pull that can exist in a complicated romance with lines like, “there’s a great white elephant, hidden in the room/ maybe you didn’t see him in the gloom,” and later: “maybe it’s better we don’t talk about it at all.” He shows a yearning for a deeper connection in the chorus as he sings, “but don’t you want to be by my side/ I only want to be by your side.” Relf underscores the emotionally charged theme with brooding music, highlighted by a low, ominous synth bass line.
With “Vampire Town,” we get a sense of release from the emotional tension of “By My Side.” While an overtly happy message wouldn’t quite mesh with the Empathy Test sound, they opt here for a notion of acceptance, which is perhaps a more honest outcome. With a heightened sense of urgency in the music from Relf, Howlett sings about moving on from a relationship, writing, “you know I love you, all I need is time/ what’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine/ and I know that we will always be friends.” It’s a best-case scenario for a relationship that was portrayed as destined to fail.
Although Empathy Test is still unsigned, they have been touring Europe and By My Side is another indicator that with their thoughtful, thoughtful lyrics and effective production, they are ready to take their music to the next level.
By My Side is out now.