New Jersey born Rory D’Lasnow embarked on his musical journey early, as most great talents do, and his first memories involving the guitar are his father playing for him before bedtime as a child. D’Lasnow played the guitar upside down, not because he’s left handed, but equally fundamental but less tangible reasons – among them, he liked the visual and how it opened the instrument’s possibilities in unexpected ways.
His five track EP Songs from an Empty Room explores time-tested possibilities of songwriting in intimate and rousing fashion. The title of the collection immediately reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s early and seminal singer/songwriter release Songs from a Room and the resemblance is more than superficial. D’Lasnow’s songs aren’t composed in anything close to the poetic tradition Cohen claimed as his own, but both write a great deal about affairs of the heart. They fearlessly explore the emotionally fraught regions where lovers often reside without relying in full on familiar iconography to hold listener’s attention.
“Where You Belong” holds listeners attention thanks to, if nothing else, its unabashed sincerity. It’s a love song, albeit nothing like what we normally associate with the genre, as D’Lasnow’s compositional talents are far more nuanced. His vocal gives a rich emotional tenor to the song it would otherwise lack but the union of his voice and the musical arrangement propels the song to another level. Experienced music listeners and newcomers to D’Lasnow’s work will immediately recognize this is a songwriter with an acute understanding of manipulating dynamics.
He leaves a significant amount of open space in the first track. The absence of instrumental clutter allows the orchestral minded guitar work to stand out much more than it would with a denser presentation. “Forgotten” follows a similar trajectory. This is less a love song and more an internalized diary entry brooding over heartache and D’Lasnow strips further musical layers away hoping to provoke a stronger emotional reaction in listeners.
It accomplishes that with mixed results perhaps, but there’s no doubt it has impressive elegance. His music grows more assertive with the EP’s third track “I Won’t Do Anything” with heavier drumming than before, but the transition into a rougher style isn’t complete until the EP’s second to last number. “Power of My Love” runs roughshod over the reserve of D’Lasnow’s earlier songs without ever sounding out of place on the release. It’s the vocal highlight for D’Lasnow, in my opinion, and I hear him attacking the lyrical with passionate inspiration.
The finale “Happy” turned my expectations on its head. expected a great closer, a song combining the strongest elements of the earlier writing and adding a dash of the new. D’Lasnow, instead, takes a shocking detour. The near-jaunty acoustic vibe of “Happy” is an unquestioned success, though, and concludes the release on at arguably its highest moment. I am sure, however, there are many such moments to come for this talented songwriter. Rory D’Lasnow’s professional profile will continue expanding at an exponential rate thanks to material such as this.