Since the 2018 release of their inaugural album Blood typeJoshua Karpeh, known professionally as Cautious Clay, has made his mark on the music scene. Between his signature soulful sound, a mix of R&B and indie pop, and collaborations with acclaimed artists Remi Wolf and Still Woozy, Cautious Clay’s eclectic melodies have garnered high praise.
Although the growing popularity of Cautious Clay generated high expectations for thin icing on the cake, the EP frequently becomes a messy cliché. While the November 18 release attempts to meld genres into a succinct picture of melancholic dissonance, it instead displays only disjointed mediocrity. A collection of divergent choruses, the one common thread holding all the tracks together is uninspired desolation.
Opening with the previously released single “Lip Service”, Cautious Clay laments the woe of faulty communication. Metaphors of misunderstanding abound, with anguish leading the way. Attempting to fit a litany of forced syllables into sparse rhythms, Cautious Clay exudes a sparse air, its dying croons colorless and mercurial. While the buoyant electronic production rises after the second chorus, the abruptly lackluster close leaves one feeling unsatisfied.
The haunting opening of the EP sets the stage for the second song, “Puffer,” a pop-infused requiem that searches for inner meaning beyond a deceptively bright exterior. “Like a flower in the sun,” Cautious Clay sings, “I just want to grow, grow, grow.” The elementary, repetitive analogy is compounded by equally monotonous interludes.
Dull monotony turns out to be a theme of the album, evident through “Type II Nostalgia,” a contradictory depiction of the darker sides of a romantic relationship. With a soft rhythm underlying by layered vocals, the track hints at the artist’s trademark smooth liveliness. However, it only manages to slip into over-the-top banalities instead of invoking the genuine effervescence of the artist’s most notable releases.
About his recent albums deadpan love Y Blood type, idiosyncratic production has been a highlight. but in thin icing on the cakeCautious Clay’s usual flowing cadences fade, spewing an unorthodox vitality over mundane pulses and tempos.
Perhaps the most underwhelming track on the EP, “Camp Anonymous” slowly yearns for uniqueness but never quite hits the mark. The rickety rhymes excel here, added to the end of melancholic lines where Cautious Clay dreams with vigour. “Ego is irrelevant,” he sings, “When you’re not the only elephant / That’s trying to find your element.” Instead of arriving at the novelty it pursues, Cautious Clay exhausts itself with relentlessly outdated imagery.
“Burning Up Slow”, however, offers a rare moment of triumph. With tenderly evocative lyricism, Cautious Clay evokes the bittersweet nature of slipping by each day with oblivion on the far horizon. Beginning with twisting waves of synthpop, the song pays homage to the EP’s title: “It was tragedy with frosting,” Cautious Clay sings in a steady, soulful voice, “And we’re as covered as Antoinette with a silver lining.” Bland gives way to authenticity as Cautious Clay struggles to cope with his own mortality, and the song shines as a highlight of the EP.
This fleeting moment of pleasure is immediately followed by the final track “Sarah Tonin”, an exaggerated longing for lasting happiness. Cautious Clay isn’t the first artist to personify the neurotransmitter, and the track strives unsuccessfully to stand out. Tired pop-inspired instrumentals provide a somber background as Cautious Clay searches for a way out of his despair. The track oozes with lifeless desolation, a thumping beat of silence that closes the EP.
With just six songs on the EP, culminating in a total length of less than 16 minutes, thin icing on the cake he still manages to drag out trivial topics for longer than necessary. Cautious Clay rarely strays from melancholic malaise, making the EP a set of no-brains. Despite a few brief moments of full flair, Cautious Clay is far from reaching his full potential on his latest release. Unlike the promising start to his career, this moody, mediocre EP is hardly the icing on the cake.