BARNES | photo courtesy of artist

On his new EP, Pretty Thin, Philly songwriter Barney Cortez proves himself to be a student of many styles.

The songwriter (also known as BARNES, and one of the creative folks behind Nicos Gun) sounds equally comfortable writing a country stomp and a symphonic psych ballad, and can fuse the sounds of multiple decades within a single song. The sheer variety of influences recalls the Magnetic Fields, as do the brilliant and evocative lyrics. Nowhere is this quality more pronounced than on the stirring “Patti Smith,” a melancholic ballad with Lennon-McCartney melodies and nostalgic Mistki-esque production, the song is as absorbing as a soft bed.

Cortez’s restrained vocals seethe with pathos and the contemplative lyrics can stop a listener in their tracks. A chorus like “We were ‘kids’ / by Patti Smith / I didn’t mean to quit / now you’re just ‘sick of it’ / by Patti Smith” is the kind of ingenious writing guaranteed to haunt every songwriter who didn’t think of it first.

Other standouts include the humorous Wilco-channeling “Hole In My Head” and the driving, wordy rocker “Dream Within a Dream”, the latter of which features an exceptional passage of instrumental solos. Short, sweet, and satisfyingly diverse, Pretty Thin is a great primer from a rising talent. You can stream it below via Spotify.