Coleman Rigg – Coleman Rigg EP

It’s hard to say exactly what multi-instrumentalist Coleman Rigg is really trying to evoke on his new self-titled EP. Coursing with very masculine energy, Rigg seems to try to capture multiple different musical aesthetics and self-images with clever but often shallow lyrics.

Album opener “Just A Man” leans immediately right into this hyper-masculine identity with the opening lyrics “Why do you call me a man? / Is it because I make the money and I walk on my hands”. Coleman growls overtop an instrumental that sounds like a mix between late-era Johnny Cash and modern-day festival rock, but the production is too flat for the song to really have any soul attached. Loud drums, guitar, and bass compete with each other for dominance but each end up getting drowned out in the final mix. Rigg coos through his choruses before asking, “what it means to be just a man”, implying that he is something other than, but doesn’t give the listener any further context to explain who or what he feels he is.

This seeming resistance to share any personal information is a theme that permeates throughout the EP, especially egregious on “Block”, in which Rigg croons “Why don’t you follow me / And I’ll show you / What it’s like to be me / A side you’ll never believe” without giving us any indication of what that might be or who he is outside of the context. The instrumental continues with that trend of classic, old school rock n’ roll, featuring an annoyingly repetitive chord progression and instruments that sound remarkably out of sync with each other, despite Rigg being the sole instrumentalist on the EP. Production sins aside, the bouncy vibe of the song seems to clash with the more melancholy and shallowly introspective lyrics, especially as Rigg sings “I guess I’ll never know / how it feels / to be anyone but me”, which is a personal line, but for a song that seems intent on expressing internal discontent, we’re given very little in the way of understanding Coleman Rigg outside of the general understanding of “he’s got problems”. When Coleman Rigg elects to share in his lyrics a more personal and vulnerable side of himself, the songs sound less bitter for the sake of being bitter and paint the picture of a better-rounded artist. On “Puzzled At Your Door” Rigg comes close to sharing his insecurities (“You said you want a guy who’s smarter and brighter than me”) but as quickly as he puts the microscope on himself does he aim it at another party, with lines like “You don’t know what you want Lady” angrily hanging atop a song that doesn’t sound dissimilar to some early 2000s indie rock, a la Vampire Weekend. On “Goodnight” we get the impression through further shallow lyricism that Rigg is insecure about his presumed partner’s fidelity, but any emotional weight that may carry is disrupted by a cacophonous post-chorus breakdown on which Coleman’s falsetto sounds like it was recorded in two completely different keys, leading to a sonic dissonance that renders the breakdown almost silly.

On the Elvis-like lullaby tune “Missed You Tonight”; Rigg finally leans towards introspective, emotional lyricism. Lines like  Sing me to sleep, cuz my daydreams aren’t working hard enough” serve as proof that Coleman can provide great and insightful lyrics when he digs deeper and confesses his vulnerabilities a little bit more, begetting a furthered sense of personality. The sparse instrumental and cleaner production on this track give the song enough space to reach an emotional impact without being boring, which is a hard blend to get just right. The image of a lonely person in a space singing to themselves “I’ll just assume the memo missed you tonight” functions better than his previous lyrics because they give something to relate to and a real emotional consequence rather than blame and anger towards an unnamed person. “Missed You Tonight” is the best overall application of what he seems to be trying to accomplish on this EP: a classic rock and roll sound with modern alternative and indie flares offering profound, emotional, and relatable lyrics.

Unfortunately, the closing track “All Smiles” again leans into that aggressive, spiteful place. Overtop a fittingly alt-rock instrumental, Coleman Rigg exclaims, “You’re not smiling anymore / You’re not so high now are you?” a phrase teaming with such ill will that it becomes difficult to see Rigg as the hero of his own story.  Rigg offers up missives like “You take a step back to see what you look like / The sight you see is twisted with hate and jealousy” which come off as just plain bitter without giving the listener any kind of reason to feel this way about the subject. This comes back to the problem presented in “Block”, in which Coleman Rigg claims to have a side of him that we’d dare not see, but doesn’t tell us anything. He’s presenting us these extremely spiteful lyrics but doesn’t give any context, which makes them come off as uncomfortable to listen to, almost like bullying.

That’s just the issue with Coleman Rigg’s new EP; it demands an emotional reaction while telling the listener very little. A track like “Missed You Tonight” shows the songwriter Rigg could be, one who’s in touch with what he’s feeling and able to express it in a healthy way to captivate an audience, rather than one who serves angry and malicious lyrics that tell you what to feel, and not why you should be feeling it.

Pros:

  • Rigg nails the classic rock n’ roll aesthetic
  • Clever lyricism
  • Impressive instrumentalism

Cons:

  • Poor production, mix makes it hard to hear or understand what is happening instrumentally
  • Instruments often sound out of time with each other
  • Shallow and spiteful lyricism
  • Very ego driven music

Listen here.

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