You might find it hard to tear yourself away from the dense, dreamy world created by Elizabeth Owens on Growing Pain. This five-song EP, designed as an introductory “demo” before the release of their debut full-length later this year, is full of airy arrangements tinged with ethereal productions and exquisitely written lyrics that create its own bubble of sonic adventure and literary catharsis.
It’s stunning. It’s breath-taking. It’s… actually ridiculous. Ridiculous how this is just the demo for their full-length, leaving you wondering what kind of amazing music Elizabeth Owens is sitting on at the moment.
Only five tracks make up this record — well, 4.5 according to the notes on Bandcamp, which seems to imply the EP’s opener “I’m Here For You,” a spectacular arrangement full of swirling vocals and fragmented sounds, is a mere snippet of a more rounded-out version set to appear on their full-length. Those Bandcamp notes also provide a great deal of context for the song’s themes and moods as Owens’ explains how the songs are rooted in their struggle with mental health.
Songs like “Be Better” explore this constant battle beautifully, as Owens is able to use their past experiences to inform their own melodies. When they sing “That I can be better,” you can hear the yearning in their voice as the melody creeps up the octave. It’s an enduring part of the song, and surely an enduring part of Owens’ own life as well.
Other moments on the record are more shrouded in their struggle, like “You’ll See,” which with an impish guitar line and vocals that feel taunting at times, even though the words serve an advisory role.
Maybe this portrays the exasperated feeling of hope people encounter with after years of grinding to get to a good place. “In this world we try so hard. Let it go and you’ll see farther.” Reading the lyrics, the song definitely provide a great deal of lyrical encouragement, while the idiosyncratic delivery and structure provide enough intrigue needed to dig deeper.
Above the great songs included on the EP, “I Long” stands tall and reveals the crux of Owens’ songwriting prowess: their ability to make simple, basic moments utterly compelling. The song revolves around a solitary guitar line, one most guitar novices probably stumbled upon while fiddling around one day watching Netflix. On its surface, it lacks character and direction, but Owens’ songwriting is able to infuse those qualities into the melody making the rudimentary run of notes absorbing and captivating. Helping this is the auxiliary parts that pepper the song, and add to its riveting feel and spacious backdrop. The lyrics follow suit with the guitar line, being minimally designed and executed with brilliant pathos. “I long for a breath of fresh air in the night / I long to be awake all the time / I long, often foolishly, to be right / I long for the light…” Owens has you hanging on every utterance of “I long,” even as it drifts into the ether, incomplete and bare at the end of their verses.
While “I Long” is the EP’s most compelling moment, the most affecting comes to us on “The Light’s On.” At first listen, it plays out like the most straightforward song on the record, structured like a perfect singer-songwriter composition with the words taking focus across a swaying guitar melody. But Owens compliments this with brilliant samples from everyday life, evoking memories of youthful innocence and carefree summer days. As they sing about the light still being on, you wonder about the heartache that led to this moment, one so beautifully vague that its relatable to anyone with a painful memory in their past.
More can be said about this brilliant EP, but it might be time to hold them back. After all, we’re only hearing a portion of the sonic world Owens has created, and if we keep diving into this little preview of that world, it’s only going to get harder and harder to be able to wait for them to reveal the whole thing.