Our Take: Shakey Graves Evolves with Indie Influence on ‘The Sleep’ EP

Shakey Graves © Greg Giannukos

Our Rating

From dark dreamland to teenage idealism, Shakey Graves’ The Sleep EP embraces depth in all stages of life.

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From his early days of guitar-drenched power tracks, Shakey Graves has evolved far past what listeners may have expected. The Sleep EP marks a new chapter, an embrace of his changing sound, just slightly straying from the tunes that have made him a household name in folk-rock.

Listen: The Sleep EP – Shakey Graves

 The Sleep EP is a two-song album, leading with previously unreleased tracks that expand Graves’ wheelhouse away from folk and into more mainstream sounds. “Counting Sheep,” the EP’s single, borders on psychedelic rock with distorted vocals and instrumentals. The song creates a nearly whimsical, airy sound, one of intense depth and darkness. It’s a sound that embraces the concept of “the sleep,” fitting for a world of relaxation, paired with questionable dreams.

Sweet dreams
Let me lay here down
Hold your breath
Don’t make a sound
Baby, oh, say, can you sleep?
I’ve been getting pretty good
At counting sheep
The Sleep EP - Shakey Graves

The Sleep EP – Shakey Graves

Kids These Days” adds a moment of brightness with instrumentals that lean toward indie-rock and add a kick of fitting youthfulness. The track speaks of being young and dumb, but content in one’s abilities to evaluate reality. It’s a catchy, relatable tune which embodies the young-adult attitude of having the world in the palm of one’s hand, a life lived with a belief that nothing can go wrong.

I’m too young to die
Gonna live forever
I just want to talk tough
Look mean
Life is good at seventeen
One thing that I know is that
You don’t know a thing about me
You were the young, dumb
Chosen one
Now you shake your head and say
“Kids these days”

The two tracks are largely contrastive, creating alternate worlds of sound and message. “Counting Sheep” is a little-endorsed love song, with lyrics “Don’t you take a bow at the last curtain call thinking you’re nobody’s nothing after all,” while “Kids These Days” leads with an adult view of teenage cockiness. Though offering entirely different concepts, the tracks are reflective in depth. It’s one thing that hasn’t changed in the evolution of Shakey Graves: the exploration of unique topics and ulterior approaches.

Shakey Graves © Jarred Gastriech

Shakey Graves © Jarred Gastriech

Throughout Graves’ repertoire, his vocals and guitar performance have been front and center. Even on 2014 album And The War Came, arguably Graves’ most produced past-release, the sound stayed true to folk-rock in a way that mirrored a living room set and organic harmonies. The Sleep EP, however, is turning away from the living room idea and running with a more produced take on Graves’ beloved sound. It’s here listeners will find layered vocals as opposed to in-studio harmonies and instrumentals that have been produced past in-room acoustics. Still, it’s been done with such care that it’s not a nod to something entirely new or a knock to Graves’ past. It’s a happy medium between his roots and the wave of future music, enough to keep him current, yet classic.

The indie-psychedelic inspirations found on The Sleep EP are exciting. They’re unexpected but feel utterly at home within Graves’ past releases.

And The Sleep EP is just the beginning. Graves will release his fourth studio album, Can’t Wake Up, on May 4. From the sounds of the pre-releases, listeners can expect something true to Graves, yet with a bit modern rock inspiration. One thing we know for sure, it won’t stray far from the confidence and heart Graves has done so well.

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:: stream/purchase The Sleep EP here ::

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Can't Wake Up - Shakey Graves album art

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📸 © Greg Giannukos

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