ALBUM REVIEW – “MK” EP by Martyrs & Kings

With acts ranging from Mumford and Sons to Frank Turner reviving the coolness of the acoustic guitar in recent years, the fusion of folk and rock is as popular now as it ever has been, with scores of exciting young acts rising out of the underground. Among them are Martyrs & Kings, whose latest EP is a richly dynamic and warm affair bursting with character. The music that makes up this short but sweet collection has a maturity that belies the group’s youth, and builds on the strengths of their initial recordings to reach a new level of quality. A perfect soundtrack to relaxing in the summer sun, MK explores a range of moods and styles without once faltering, and is consistently enjoyable.

Opener ‘Thorn In My Side’ kicks things off at a jaunty pace, the rhythm section of Chris Bright and James Jackman driving the song forward very nicely. Syrupy clean guitar links thread their way through acoustic chord patterns, the tempo shifting between restrained and upbeat effortlessly. As catchy instrumentally as it is vocally, the song is a very strong start to the EP and hooks the listener immediately as the pace slows for ‘Greener Sea’. Retaining the spirited atmosphere but with a more laidback approach, this second track recalls material from Frank Turner’s Tape Deck Heart album in its bittersweet bliss and densely layered production.

The longest and most ambitious tune is ‘From Film to Photograph’, building from stark minimalism to a gorgeous piano-laced peak before being stripped back down again before its climax. In a showcase for Mike Williams’ heartfelt vocal style, the emotional but ambiguous lyrics perfectly suit the beautifully woven musical bed that underpins them. Everything’s brought full circle by the whimsical ‘Gone in the Morning’. Completely different to the previous track, its rushing drums and frantic acoustic guitar work – including a magnificent lead riff from Zach Johnson – closes proceedings on an upbeat note.

Consistent and very good fun to listen to, MK may be short but packs plenty to enjoy into its brief runtime. Though lacking an obvious breakout hit to elevate them to the same level as their inspirations, it’s early days for a group with obvious chemistry and songwriting talent who are only going to get better from here. Something that will get people excited about future music to come, this new EP indicates great promise and yet-untapped potential that may well one day manifest on a grand scale.

Rating: 8 / 10

Michael Bird

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