Review: Josh Pyke "Missing Memories" EP
Written by Kiersten Gerard
We all hold onto things from our past, worried that we’ll need them one day only to find that we no longer have them. Josh Pyke has held on to 7 songs that just barely missed making it onto his debut album Memories & Dust released over a decade ago. The album has just gone platinum and to commemorate this achievement Pyke has gifted us those 7 secret tunes in an EP titled Missing Memories.
Upon first listen I hadn’t realized that the songs were pulled from years past- I found the EP on my Spotify release radar without any context. Knowing now that they were originally written for a larger project explains the disconnect between songs. Not that the songs don’t flow, just that there’s that feeling of “somethings missing”
In classic Josh Pyke fashion the EP kicks off with a song full of crisp harmonies, lively guitar, and his lovely bright toned voice. “Drop in the Stitch” is a solid piece, adding new elements every four or so bars. The build through the chorus can only be described as “pleasant” with angelic ahs under Pyke’s vocal line. The song evokes the feeling of sitting around a campfire with your friends on the last night of your camping trip, all of you having learned just a little bit more about yourselves.
Following “Drop in the Stitch” is “The 9 & the 5.” Here is a song that was clearly recorded a decade ago. That’s not to be taken as an insult, it’s to say that Pyke’s voice is less developed and comes across more raw. The raw texture of Pyke’s voice only adds to the general vibe of the song. I can imagine it would fit well playing after an emotional scene in an early 2000s teen drama, like Dawson’s Creek or Smallville.
Now we’ve got “Clock On / Clock Off,” the longest and maybe strangest song on the EP. This song is wildly different from the two pieces prior. The first major difference being the minute long instrumental intro reminiscent of the playout of The Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” The intro lacks a clear melody and is composed of many layers, one of which being what sounds like several pitches played backward. To be quite honest, this portion is a bit disconcerting. After about a minute of this it’s as if all of the instrumentalists get on the same page and all of the lines fall together. The song transitions into one that, for lack of a better word, rocks. It’s the type of song that I would love to see performed live. Another way that this song varies from its predecessors is in its general feel. It’s much more sinister. It was at this point in my listening that I began to think of the EP as a descent into some kind of dark place, this song being rock bottom.
“Sleepers to Steel” begins calmly with clean harmonies and the familiar shake of a tambourine. The song is not entirely separate from “Clock On / Clock Off” as the second chorus incorporates those same reverse pitches. To continue with my descent analogy, this song feels as if whoever is on this journey is acknowledging how low they’ve gotten.
“Unit 11” begins the climb out from this dark place. There feels to be a bit of a disconnect between the vocal melody and the instrumental- this fits the sentiment of the opening lyric “I can’t deny it, I’m out of my mind tonight but I’m not drunk though I have been drinking since 5” The instrumental under the line is almost dizzying. Add the run-on sentence of the lyric and you almost get the feeling of being intoxicated. This disconnect falls away at the start of the chorus with the lyrics “don’t get too caught up with the setting sun for tomorrow brings another one, and I know the night can seem such a gritty mess and the slide into dark can bring bitterness, so tonight we’ll not think of it.” Yes it’s still quite the run on sentence, but I imagine it to be a moment of clarity one finds while under the influence of whatever they may be using. They’re able to acknowledge that yes, life sucks sometimes and drinking and smoking can’t solve their problems long term, but they’re enough for right now. Under these lyrics the chords feel less uncertain, less unstable. The chorus is repeated at the end of the song with alternate lyrics, the first half changing to “Don’t cry if you miss out on the setting sun, it can’t shine its light down on everyone.” I interpret this as a reminder that sometimes it is just not your day, and that's alright. It happens. You’ve still got to keep going.
After all of these heavy emotions Pyke surprises us with a sweet acoustic song including imagery and lyrics inspired by Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin. The song is very bare, or should I say bear, composed only of Pyke’s voice and a guitar. Relating to my analogy, “House at Pooh’s Corner” is finally getting out of that dark place. The speaker has pulled themselves out of that dark hole and now they lay at its edge exhausted, but feeling the warmth of sunlight for the first time in a long time.
Pyke says it best himself- the song that concludes the EP is “not a sorry song,” it is simply a list of observations. “Birdcage on the Faultline” is our speaker sharing the lessons they’ve learned and compelling us to learn from them as well. There is a lyric in this song that mentions “the night slides into day” whereas in “Unit 11” the lyric described the night as sliding into dark and bringing bitterness. Rather than getting hung up on the fact that the night will be dark, in this piece the speaker acknowledges that after the dark comes a new day. The song concludes with the phrase “Keep those eyes awake cause it’s tricky how the night slides into day. Keep the money when it comes your way” repeated 3 times followed by a collection of voices overlapping with the phrase “I say, I say” This conclusion acts as a sort of warning to the listener, an ominous way to end a project. A warning against being naïve which, perhaps, was the very cause of the speaker’s descent in the first place.
I’d like to emphasize that these interpretations are only my interpretations. That’s the beauty of music, it speaks to everyone with a different voice. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to knowing the true nature of these songs. Regardless, this EP takes you on a journey. It’s up to you to conclude where that journey leads.