It is common with debut albums that artists, still manoeuvring through developmental musical phases, take with them songwriting cues from a smattering of their favourite musicians, utilising these influences as guides to making art that’s successful. The debut album from Tamworth born singer-songwriter Charlie Collins, Snowpine, is a collection of songs that openly follows in previously traveled artistic footsteps, with some moments that highlight a wonderful creative potential, and others that might lead listeners to want to return to the records already sitting on their shelves.
Although Snowpine has its moments, overall it leaves the listener wishing for something more individual. Collins proudly wears her influences on her sleeves — the group that will most immediately come to mind for listeners will undoubtedly be The War On Drugs, as Collins’ songs use similar fuzzy, nostalgic guitar tones, whispery vocals, and one-note (or nearly) basslines that assist in giving tracks the driving-down-a-lonely-desert-road feeling that so many people associate with The War On Drugs — the issue being, that while other artists, like Kurt Vile, The Killers, and Angel Olsen also seem to make sonic appearances on this album too, the aesthetic of The War On Drugs is distinct enough, and popular enough, that it’s just impossible not to hear it when it starts up in nearly the entire tracklist.
The songs “Beautifully Blind”, and “Mexico” are the two tracks from Snowpine that both take overwhelming influence from the previously mentioned artists and stand on their own as compelling alt-country, indie-rock anthems — these are by far the brightest spots from the selection of these types of songs on this album. The former successfully offers emotional weight with a belting chorus and the latter utilises a melody catchy enough to remember. They are tracks that scream to be played on repeat as you drive through red-lights at 2 A.M. without any real destination.
The most effective songs on the album are the songs that are actually the most barebones — the songs that, while they clearly fall into an indie-folk tradition, avoid sounding so much like another specific group. “Space Between”, an acoustic track, highlights an emotionally poignant performance from Collins that allows listeners to really focus on the lyrics and intimate atmosphere. When her vocals are pushed to the forefront of the production, it is easy to want to find a place within Collins’ world. On too many of the other songs, Collins’ vocals can feel like they sit behind the guitars and bass as if Collins’ and her producers believed more in the guitar riffs throughout the album than they do in Collins’ songs and singing. In the singer-songwriter genre, nothing is more important than the unique voice of the artist, and when Collins’ voice is the main attraction, Snowpine shines, and that is the biggest shame with this record. It is easy to see how talented Collins is, especially when her music focuses on herself. There just isn’t enough of that on Snowpine to lift it from average.
The majority of the songs are written in a straightforward, verse-chorus format, oftentimes with incredibly repetitive vocals in the choruses, usually featuring the title of the song. This stylistic approach makes the songs feel longer than they actually are and enough of the 11 tracks on the album feel similar enough to themselves that they can feel monotonous and over-written, even if no one song is in itself overbearingly long. “Who’s Gonna Save You Now” offers, albeit briefly, some interesting, off-beat guitar strikes, but they aren’t enough to keep the song from the doldrums. Straightforwardness in songwriting can often be instrumental in showcasing some of the more interesting things that an artist has to offer. With the commitment to simplicity and repetition, one would hope that the songs would offer attention-grabbing lyrics and emotion, or undeniable catchiness. Other than the group of songs previously highlighted, the songs on Snowpine unfortunately just feel a bit lacklustre.
Nothing on Snowpine is all that offputting, in fact, it is, on the whole, relatively enjoyable; however, it feels like Charlie Collins is yet to find a songwriting and sonic style that is definitively hers. This album will do well to soundtrack road trips and slow, somber days immersed in nature, but when you hit shuffle on your “drive” playlist, it might be difficult to discern these tracks from The War On Drugs and Kurt Vile deep cuts.