I first had the pleasure of meeting Coffee Breath a couple of years back; I was volunteering at the University of Birmingham’s student-run festival, ValeFest, and they name came up a few times regarding booking local student bands. They had just put out their debut release, 2016’s “Runaway / Marshmallows”, supported by a couple of shows around Birmingham, and it had caused quite a buzz in the local scene. The guitar noodling of Ryan McCorkell and Matt Reynolds fits perfectly under the distinct falsetto of singer Sam Tidmarsh, straight off the bat they sounded like an experienced professional outfit.
The reality was far from it – I even had a friend complaining that he saw the Facebook advert only a couple of months prior of the group looking for members and completely forgot to reply to it. Yet, nearly three years later they’ve gone on to release another EP, headlined the second stage of ValeFest, supported math rock legends TTNG and embarked on a national tour with post-rockers Redwood.
And now the band are back at it again in 2019 with their latest offering: a six-track masterpiece. Produced by UK emo heavyweight Hamish Dickinson (The XCERTS, Palm Reader, Redwood), the record is more musically diverse than ever before. Drawing on their experience and influences from the past few years, the EP is a 22-minute journey through Midwest emo, math rock, dreampop and post rock.
The opening track (and lead single) “A Familiar Feeling” begins with a soft trumpet line over washed-out guitars. This is the first release from the Birmingham quintet to feature brass, provided by vocalist Sam Tidmarsh. Whilst the trumpet has arguably become as much of a cliché in the scene as naming your band after American Football or Dads (no hate Soccer Mommy), it feels natural and well-suited to the soundscapes of Coffee Breath, providing a nice full-bodied contrast to Tidmarsh’s dreamy falsetto. In contrast, “Home” sees Sam straining his voice in pained-sounding screams.
“The Joy of Painting” is perhaps the best track on the EP. Lyrically comprised of quotes from Bob Ross, the song perfectly captures the feeling of a peaceful evening, watching the man himself work his magic before dropping halfway through into the standout moment from the whole release. Suddenly, the dreamy guitar lines fade and the track opens out into a post-rock masterpiece, featuring a brilliant crunchy bassline and tight drumming from Max Hadfield and Cem Ozer underneath screamed vocals from Tidmarsh. Although the whole section only lasts around a minute, it has such an energy that just makes you want to fly out of your seat and jump around like a 16-year-old in their first mosh pit.
The next track “Kindling” continues the musical journey, throwing the listener from soundscape to soundscape with a honed professionalism. “Selly Oak”, named after the borough of Birmingham the band all lived together throughout their time at university, is a largely instrumental track featuring only three lines of vocals. It is the gentlest track on the EP, showing a tenderness in the guitar work through interplay between McCorkell and Reynolds. The sixth and final track “Weight of You” feels like a perfect conclusion to the EP, containing an ending riff shared between all instruments that adds such a finality to the release that to try and explain it would be useless – it’s something that has to be listened to in order to be understood.