Driven primarily by a searing piano balladry that brings everything from a cover of “Creep” to the original “Here to Stay” to life as nothing else could have, you can tell Renee Ruth is serious about music when listening to her new eponymous EP. There’s nothing particularly sophisticated about the stylization of her hooks in this extended play and its four songs, and yet the ambitiousness of the material is anything but concealed by the indulgent approach Ruth takes to even the most mundane of beats. Whether it be the clubby “Lose My Breath” or the more brooding number “We Are One,” I get the impression that this is just a taste of what this artist is bringing to the table right now.
Although there’s something to be said about simplicity, I like the meandering depth of the chorus in “Here to Stay” especially, as it shows us just how committed to a melody this player can be whilst avoiding the pitfalls that come with showmanship. There’s no getting around the amount of talent Ruth has as a singer, but it’s her arranging skills that are getting the biggest workout in this performance. I’m often partial to compositional wit just because of my nature as a critic, and this is an instance in which it’s a little hard to debate how bewitching the intricacies of the material are, particularly given that all four of these songs are presented from a wholly indie perspective (which is more than I can ask out of any mainstream artist at the moment).
“Lose My Breath” is the one track here that steps out of the balladic undertow and into something a bit more vibrant and physical in style, but I don’t think it feels like an odd man out in the grander scheme of things in the least. On the contrary, Ruth wanted to show us a bit of balance through juxtaposition and that’s precisely what including a song like “Lose My Breath” next to “Here to Stay,” “We Are One,” and the haunting rendition of “Creep” was all about. This might be an underground star we’re listening to in this EP, but you would never guess as much from the highly professional means through which everything is being put on display.
Renee Ruth is a newcomer to the scene from where I sit, but with the voice and the moxie she has in the studio, I think we’re going to be seeing and hearing a lot more of her in the next few years to come. She has a unique combination of darkness and light when she’s crooning beside the piano melodies in these songs, and while her hue can be a bit nocturnal in spots, it never lacks a sense of optimism that makes us feel like we’re listening to someone who cares more about aesthetics than cosmetics. That’s a big win for anyone who enjoys weighty pop music, which is exactly what Renee Ruth is going to become known for in the years ahead.