You See – Somebody Out There Can Still Write Good Pop Songs; And With a Guitar No Less
Ethan Barnett, aka Ten Tonnes is a UK based power-neo-Brit-pop singer/songwriter, a southern England answer to Sam Fender with less overzealous production, and perhaps even a relative similarity in style to George Ezra – who just so happens to be Barnett’s brother.
While Ezra has hit global crossover success in his young career thus far, Ten Tonnes has earned critical success and a Top 40 debut album in 2019 in his native UK, but fallen short of his other sibling’s global reach. Notwithstanding this, Ten Tonnes has managed to define a music style and substance different than his brother’s, or the aforementioned Fender. Ethan Barnett’s voice is a bit less distinctive, but perhaps more tolerable across longer listens, and his songwriting echoes more of 90s Britpop melded with the indie sounds of the early 2010s and a classic bluesy singer-songwriter affect.
His debut self-titled exhibited his talent for songwriting and singing, while his follow-up, 2023’s Dancing, Alone demonstrates perhaps a less hurried, less energetic, but even tighter melody-making, supported by a well kept rhythm section, and what have become signature lyric writing expressing weight of expectation, failure in relationships, but all wrapped in a power pop hook.
Representative standout tracks from the album include “When It Goes”, “Dancing Alone”,
“Lone Star” may evoke the Texas frontier in its slower, plodding acoustic guitar and the longing lyrics of Barnett. It provides a welcoming change of pace mid-way through the album that helps hold together the 12-track LP (which at 46 minutes feels like a lifetime compared to the current trend of basically putting out an EP as a full-length).
The track immediately following is a more forceful song “Out of Here” which hearkens back to the heavier sound of earlier music from Ten Tonnes. It has a groove, and more of rhythm and blues feel which has been a welcome element that differentiates much of Ten Tonnes music; not strictly the British power pop of today, not quite as bluesy as George Ezra, but a good blend that creates something intriguing.
As you listen through the album more and more, I can’t help but realize that there really isn’t a bad song here. Perhaps on his debut, Barnett might have leaned a little more pop-y at times, and at others less refined than what we have on Dancing, Alone. But there’s no lack of passion, certainly, on this sophomore record. It’s well produced, songs like “Drowning in the Deep End” is a great example of a power pop song that works so well, and reminds me of the more sophisticated songs of a band like Drowners. It’s hard not to really enjoy a full listen through to this album. It just works.
And it’s good sign that even if Ten Tonnes doesn’t globally blow up the way they deservedly should, that there are still bands out there who can write a good power-pop guitar album.
“Drowning in the Deep End”
“Out of Here”