The One Tonic – Won’t Stop (EP)
The One Tonic, despite Matt Soren’s central role in the EP’s creation, never sounds like a glorified solo vehicle. He works with many of the same musicians over the course of Won’t Stop’s five songs, so there is a core band you can point to as comprising The One Tonic. There’s no question, however, that Soren is the artistic guiding light of the collection and his omnipresent vocals give it emotional weight it would have otherwise lacked. He possesses each of the EP’s five songs with a singular presence driven by a sense of genuine stakes – he sings as if his life depends on it and perhaps it does. The cathartic quality of these songs is inescapable. Much of it is undoubtedly driven by his experiences suffering through addiction and his gratitude for recovery, but enduring his wife’s aggressive breast cancer while trying to keep his family and himself upright informs the songwriting as well.
“Won’t Stop” single-handedly embodies the impassioned spirit of the EP and the musical arrangement accentuates those strengths. Few songwriters utilizing electronic instruments do so with the skill Soren brings to this track and the remaining four included on this release. The electronic music blends well with Dan Costello’s guitar playing and Josh Roda’s percussion. Roda joins Soren on three of the EP’s five tracks and, as well, handles the mastering and mixing for this release. Soren brings the words to life with his intensely focused vocals, but the lyrics stand on their own as a powerful personal statement. Life may knock Soren around, but he will never let it keep him down.
The second cut “Happy to Feel” mixes up the musical attack much more than the comparatively straight-forward title track and the quieter interludes he builds into the arrangement juxtapose in a dramatic way with the busier, darker passages. He conveys the song’s message with great yet artful ferocity – it is a near perfect illustration of how Soren shapes his passions in a vocal that never slips into melodrama yet packs an enormous wallop. “All in With You” shifts gears in a big way as Soren offers listeners an unfettered love song, completely shorn of any lyrical sleights of hand, and his method of direct address to his wife will touch many listeners. He fills each line of the lyric with palpable affection.
“Not Your Tool” is another fiery display of Soren’s resolute refusal to allow himself undone by any darkness within or without. The musical arrangement has a near claustrophobic atmosphere, but never threatens to overwhelm listeners and his vocal drips with the sort of feeling you cannot fake. He brings the EP to a close with the track “Letting Go” and this ode to the release that comes from surrender feels like the most personal statement included on a release brimming with such moments. The varied arrangement engages listeners from the outset and the turns in mood and direction scattered throughout the track are intelligent. It’s a memorable closer for one of the most invigorating EP’s you’ll hear in 2020.