Over the years Euphone has morphed from a solo project by Ryan Rapsys (the late Heroic Doses) to a duo with bassist Nick Macri to a trio with Jeremy Jacobsen (the Lonesome Organist). Now it’s come full circle on V, with all the toys back in Rapsys’s corner. The five-song EP is a big departure from any previous Euphone recording, including the last collaborative effort, 2002’s The Lakewood, but in a different direction than you might expect. The new sound has shifted curiously away from post-rock sound collages and experiments towards more conventional pop and rock song structures. And where faint and distorted vocals sometimes made their way into past compositions, Rapsys steps directly in front of the mic here on a couple tracks.
The results are pleasant, if slightly less than compelling. Clocking in just under 14 minutes, V sounds like revving an engine as opposed to speeding down the drag. “Zebras Cold Training” is a quick instrumental that begins with what might actually be the sound of zebras, then goes on to feature Rapsys’s rifle-shot drumming, lead guitar, and assorted bells and whistles. It sounds inaugural, a celebratory warm-up, a new beginning. “Some Want to Slowly Die” is a vocal track, belying a strong fondness for both Brian Eno and ‘80s pop, futuristic and nocturnal. Rapsys’s voice is a little skinny, but nevertheless a good fit for the material, which conjures skinny ties and neon lights (in a good way).
Every track has its pleasures, but the collection doesn’t hit its stride until right before it ends. “When It’s Done” is a catchy-as-hell amalgam of jangly Chronic Town-era R.E.M. and synth-pop. Of the three tracks with vocals, it also has the finest melody. The verses are breezy and shuffling, while the chorus hook downshifts, stops and starts: “You start crying every single time / You see yourself in the mirror / You wish that you looked like someone else”. The teen angst is so palpable I can almost feel Molly Ringwald breathing down my neck (I wish). Replaying this song over and over almost makes up for the brevity of V, but it still cries out for more company.