Summer at Shatter Creek – Sink or Swim EP

Summer at Shatter Creek
Sink or Swim EP

Craig Gurwich, the man behind Summer at Shatter Creek, is one of those rare musicians who can do it all, turning out primarily self-recorded albums that full bands should be desperate for. Yet his musical ability, his placid yet pleasing voice, and his ear for production can turn even this – a bare-bones and stripped-down EP – into something remarkable in its beauty and depth.

You might be surprised to hear that the only instruments on Sink or Swim are Gurwich’s piano and his voice. Yet through the genius production qualities, the sound is incredibly deep, and Gurwich’s voice is more than strong enough to carry the songs, often layered with haunting and powerful ghost-like backing vocals. It simultaneously feels simple and extremely complex, light and airy yet by no means sparse.

The EP’s opener, “Something to Calm Me,” is calming, like its name, but also more classical in feel. The piano is rich and vibrant, the vocals blending beautifully. The more dreamy “Optimistic” flows sweetly, the backing vocals playing an especially prominent role. The melancholy “Rebecca” is a soft and sweet love song, while “Worlds Away” livens things up a bit more, bringing a bit more bombast into the piano and lush vocals – both lead and the atmospheric backing vocals. The latter is undoubtedly my favorite song here, and probably the one that would most benefit from a more fleshed-out performance with added instrumentation. The piano on “Your Ever Changing Moods” is even more impressive, working out a lilting yet energetic piano line that mixes nicely with the rather dark feel of the song itself.

The formula doesn’t vary much on Sink or Swim, but neither do these songs sound the same or get old too quick. Gurwich is obviously talented, crafting wonderful piano-led pop songs in a laid-back, melancholy manner. There’s rumors that more fleshed out versions of these songs will appear on a later Summer at Shatter Creek album, but they’re perfect as they are.