“Singer-songwriter” has, generally speaking, become rather a derogatory term recently. It conjures images of MOR soft-rock, radio fodder – never offensive, just there, sitting in the background like beige furniture. So in describing The Widowers (aka Matthew Sigur) as a singer-songwriter, I do so in the most literal way; he sings and he writes songs, and by that I mean whole songs – lyrics, instrumentation, percussion, the lot. His debut EP, Friendly, was recorded wholly onto a single microphone hooked up to an old Mac (which is presumably what the photo above was taken from – now that’s modern living!), and it’s slowly reconfiguring my singer-songwriter prejudices.

Friendly refuses to bow to its literally singular limitations, nor the stigma attached to the genre tag it’s bound to receive (which I suppose I’m not helping to dispel – ho-hum) as it kicks up a storm of noise in its own peculiar, shambling way. Sigur possesses such a lugubrious Paul Banks drawl that it seems to actively slow down the spiky, out-of-joint indie he pairs it with. ‘Name of my Sister’ marries a regimented, snare-heavy beat with the kind of wandering, entrancing guitars that Pixies fans dream of while ‘Blurry Smile’ takes a more laid-back approach, alternating nostalgia-tinged lyricism with gradually expanding guitar melodies that could become overbearingly stadium-sized if it weren’t for the beautifully restrained production.

It doesn’t always work, as ‘Beacon Street’ becomes almost parodic in its muscular rock stomp and ‘Meltdown in the Sun’ takes the Interpol-aping style a step too far, but I’m not sure it was always meant to be a cohesive work, and my personal preferences simply reflect a talented new artist experimenting with which direction to go in (if any). I for one hope that Widowers stays on the path set by ‘Otherwise (Friends)’, the song which best represents all my favourite elements of the EP – Pixies-esque guitars, an incredibly cool set of vocals, drums at the forefront, providing as much interest as the guitars and a really, really brilliant outro.

He may not have decided quite where to go yet, but if this EP proves one thing it’s that a singer-songwriter can be just as loud and inventive as any band, and Matthew Sigur already is.

For a sample, download the track below, for the whole shebang, head to The Widowers’ Bandcamp page where you’ll find it as a free download. Imagine that.

The Widowers – Otherwise (Friends) (YSI)