Think of Eastern European Jazz infused with Spanish guitar and grassroots blues. Now add to the mix a range of bohemian vocal performances, reminiscent of Ron Moody’s Fagin, and you have Antun Opic.
The new four-track EP, Shovel My Coal, is an eclectic blend of Eurovision meets Andrew Lloyd Webber. Opic’s vocal performance is undoubtedly flawless and undeniably creative. His raspy and suggestive tone adapts to create a range of comical and intriguing characters, fueled off the back of some funny national stereotypes. He himself has mentioned his objective approach to writing lyrics, writing not in his native language, but in English, to add some distance from his characters; producing a more original, playful piece.
You can’t knock the band for their creative endeavours in their efforts to concoct a completely original blend of Gypsy Jazz/Folk, and Spanish guitar. While this all sounds very exciting, it is slightly disjointed: the expectedly clear, immaculate style of a perfectly played Spanish guitar piece is somewhat lost when paired with the opposing laid-back, ‘careless’ jazz style.
This merging of styles weaves throughout the EP, from experimental Spanish guitar to the more generic stadium-rock guitar style as seen on ‘The Journalist’. The comic element is sometimes hard to take seriously, especially by the final song, in which all humour is discarded and we begin to see an attempt at more serious, orthodox acoustics. The thematic comedy and mixture of different styles does not flow through the album, and Opic’s ambitious, ostentatious approach is harder to perceive as a consistent concept when restricted to just four tracks.
Though slightly fractured, the overall feel of the album is not altogether lost; the theatrical element is organic and genuine. The fluctuation in tempo exemplifies this beautifully, particularly on ‘Hide and Seek’, with its musical-style ending. The climactic build of Opic’s insightful soliloquies sets us up for what should be a dramatic, impressive finish; we would expect such an unpredictable EP to end with a bang. However, we are left sorely disappointed with an end track laced with weak, insincere harmonies in danger of becoming generic and boring – it really doesn’t belong on this record.
Aside from the disjointed merging of genres and misplaced final track, it is essentially a great EP that, overall, makes for easy listening and is enjoyably experimental in parts, without being pretentious. You can tell Antun Opic had making this, and no one can deny the incredible Spanish guitar progressions. The intriguing storytelling and creativity, including the musical manifestation of footsteps, door-slamming, and running etc. help to build up tension for a climactic ending that simply doesn’t come. Opic’s own feelings of being a “half breed” of both Croatian and German descent with no fixed feeling of belonging may go some way in helping us to understand this confusing and melancholy element of the album.