As is the case for many young artists in the age of the internet, Orla Gartland gained popularity after posting covers to her YouTube channel. Almost a decade later, her success on the charts and her sold–out tours indicate the twenty–five–year–old Irish musician managed to translate her success into the “real world.” Only six months after releasing her third EP, Why Am I Like This?, Gartland is back with her fourth, Freckle Season.
Opening with the more upbeat “Did It to Myself,” Gartland captures her listeners’ attention with near a capella vocals and self–aware lyrics. More importantly, however, it's the kind of song to which it's impossible to not bob your head. It’s that boppy, swingy melody coupled with Gartland’s signature vulnerability that makes it difficult to take this song off repeat.
Gartland’s range is all too apparent, consequently, in the contrast between the opening track and the rest of the EP. The bouncy melody is replaced by a mellow and meditative piano line in “Heavy,” while Gartland's classic guitar–strumming takes center stage on “New Friends.” All together, Freckle Season is a remarkably well–produced indie album that highlights its artist’s range in a way that will make longtime fans both nostalgic and excited for the future.
However, it will also leave them wanting more, which isn't surprising. One of the main points of an EP is to give fans a preview of an album yet to come. Of course, an EP is a work of art on its own, and its existence doesn't always revolve around snippets of future work. However, the medium has become synonymous with new artists just beginning their careers, or a way for established artists to stay relevant between longer releases.
Gartland released her first EP in 2013 and her first single in 2012, both of which found success on the Irish charts, garnering her a devoted fan base. But it’s 2020. She’s not exactly a new artist anymore. Nevertheless, Gartland has never released an LP, and it doesn't appear as if she has any plans to do so. Instead, she has released four EPs, including Freckle Season, and ten singles. Clearly, this works for her. But, to be frank, a five–song EP featuring three songs previously released as singles feels more than a bit unsatisfying to those desperate for new music.
Furthermore, a record with only five songs doesn't have an easily decipherable musical narrative. One is likely present; it's just hard to figure out what it is when there isn't much there. Perhaps it's a symptom of an era in which albums have become more of a holding place for songs rather than a piece of art in and of themselves. When this occurs, the difference between an LP and an EP is simply the amount of work put into each. The availability of streaming services and the celebration of "going viral" have made singles the currency of success for young artists. With that in mind, many of them are putting more time into balancing their music with their respective online presences than the story told by an album.
That isn't to say that they aren't putting effort into their music. The industry simply changed and so has its priorities. Furthermore, this may not be the sole the reason behind Gartland's decision to produce EP's instead of albums. However, her commercial success and the number of songs she releases each year make it clear she is making a deliberate choice more and more of her contemporaries are making as well.
Overall, Freckle Season is a great EP that shows off just how talented of an artist Gartland is, but it feels like an odd choice to make at this point in her career. The fact that Why Am I Like This? was only released nine months ago makes one wonder why Gartland didn't just wait to release everything together as a longer album. EPs can work on their own when they can carrying themselves. Unfortunately, with the lack of new material and cohesive narrative, it's difficult to say this one does.