In late 2020, the North East musician RJ Thompson released his second album, Lifeline, a deeper, more honest collection of songs that is inherently personal, reflecting on his childhood, relationships and navigating today’s digital world. Interspersed with the spoken word, Lifeline reflects on the way that we often look back on the past, snatches of conversation coming in and out of focus, time either healing or enhancing the pain childhood can bring.
From the start, the album is upbeat and catchy – RJ really knows how to write killer hooks – often juxtaposing the rhythm with themes of pain and angst. ‘Kids‘ and ‘So Right‘ start us off, delving into relationships and accompanying insecurities. In ‘So Right’, RJ sings
“everything about you is so right, what’s wrong with me?”
We all have our insecurities but the nub of how that manifests in relationships is caught in that one line. The alt rock guitars are used to great effect here, together with the synth laden pop sounds of the whole album.
One of the themes that RJ writes about in these fourteen tracks is the polarisation of the online world, nowhere better than on ‘Act of God‘. One memorable line says that “I woke up from a bad dream when everyone used to get along”, leaving us with no doubt about his own feelings on the matter. Whatever your views (self confessed social media fan / addict here), the song and others on Lifeline will surely make you think. It has a cracking video too!
The stand out track was tricky to pick, there are half a dozen I could have chosen but for me, ‘Let Your Guard Down’ is the best song on the album. This song looks at the battle between mental health struggles and the need to keep up appearances for society’s sake (as a whole society it is more acceptable to talk about this but on an individual one to one basis, I would say we need to do a whole lot better), as shown in this line:
“Society teaches you don’t let your guard down”
The spoken word that pops up in this track does a good job of demonstrating the sense of panic, anxiety and depression often felt by those struggling with mental health.
Lifeline skips through the last few numbers before arriving at the title track which gathers up the threads and weaves them into one tight song that leaves us with a sense of hope and optimism for the future. “I brought you here tonight to be my lifeline…I could be your lifeline too” is a wonderful line, full of love, faith and trust; we can be here for each other.
As a writer himself, RJ’s advice for aspiring artists looks especially at writing:
The main advice I would have for people just starting out…write, write, write. You’ll probably find that the first songs you write aren’t great but they might have melodies or ideas that you’ll revisit down the line. It’s always good to have a big catalogue of little ideas that you can call on if you’re stuck.
Lifeline was released on 30 October 2020 on Codename Records. Get your copy here.
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