About love, the now-iconic Hot Priest from Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s television masterpiece Fleabag says — in front of a wedding congregation — that it “is awful. It’s painful. It’s frightening. Makes you doubt yourself, judge yourself, distance yourself from other people in your life. Makes you selfish.” But after he scorns love, Hot Priest takes a breath and, resigning to love’s powerful beauty, admits, “no wonder it’s something that we don’t want to do on our own.”
On DON’t, Evan J. Cartwright has similarly conflicting feelings about love. Even how the title is stylized feels like Cartwright started writing it from a place of anger but was then consumed by tenderness. In five songs, Cartwright ruminates on the end of a relationship. They’re songs about parting and change and trying to hold onto what was once beautiful and whole but is now tattered like the dress he asks to mend on the opening track “should i?” But as much as love is painful for Cartwright, he sings about it with such devotion. With an almost sing-speak voice, Cartwright is totally in awe of how much joy and pain love causes and he welcomes it with open arms no matter what. As he sings on “no, no, no”: “I’m not giving up on love.”
Each song is like a scrap of paper that has brown rings soaked into it from the teacup a friend put down instead of using a coaster. And friends are abundant on DON’t: voices, speaking and laughing, are heard throughout; Eliza Niemi’s cello plays tag with Cartwright’s guitar on the opening track; Anh Phung’s fluttering flute-work on “the nightingale” dazzles. The EP is also scattered with field recordings; somebody skips, I think, in Calgary on “leaving” and skates carve through ice at Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto on “at the end.” These auxiliary sounds and people add extra warmth to the EP and reaffirms what Hot Priest said: love isn’t something that you want to do on your own.