The Ballroom Thieves conjure themes of nomadic melancholy and bouts of heartbreak in their haunting new EP.

The Ballroom Thieves’ most recent EP, Paper Crown, could be the soundtrack of a gritty Peaky Blinders episode: raw, soulful, and dangerous. The group’s powerful harmonizing, bluesy folk melodies, and intermingling of rugged and soft vocals accompany wistful lyricism. Guitarist Martin Earley, cellist and lead vocalist Calin “Callie” Peters, and drummer Devin Mauch intertwine the themes of battling inner demons and frustrations, as well as revenge, loneliness, and melancholy, to create a brilliantly earnest and passionate record.

On the first track, “Only Lonely,” Peters’ soothing and tender vocals create a deceptive comfort, inviting the listener in as the record begins. The deception comes into play with themes of internal torment in the lyrics, making her gentle tone and beautifully eerie high howls disconcerting. These howls, interwoven with the sheer strength of her voice in deeper notes, recall the similar aspects of the lyrical structure of Hozier’s “To Be Alone” and the First Aid Kit track “Wolf.” These melancholic howls are expertly juxtaposed with haunting lyrical imagery, in which Peters claims that she can “build a nest in any scaffold,” and “dwell in the revelry.” This offers the listener a peek into her headspace: she can settle anywhere, blending in with the happy people around her. Peters’ delivery of these lyrics provokes a tangible desperation for companionship and being understood. In the second track on Paper Crown, “Do Something,” The Ballroom Thieves conjure a fervent rhetoric: the brilliantly dark image of bones being used as “the greatest stairway” illustrates the raw grittiness of the record.

The EP shifts in tone with “Can’t Cheat Death,” the catchy, foot-tapping rock track that tells the story of how once-passionate lovers turn to murder as a solution for the frustrations, which stem from their marital problems and unfaithfulness. The lovers’ honesty, evident in the song’s clever lyricism, captures their rage and impassioned love-turned-hate for one another. It holds onto the EP’s haunting, passionate themes of love and revenge, but makes a bold deviation from the EP’s melancholic harmonies with its upbeat, fast-paced rhythm. The following tracks, “Fistfight” and “Almost Love,” follow suit as sordid love songs that tie together the EP with their the dangerous, dirty folk-rock vibe.

Paper Crown brilliantly entices the listener with its expert storytelling, soulful lyricism, and dark imagery that should be the soundtrack to turn-of-the-century revenge dramas, as the backing track to scene in a cloudy, smoke-filled pub, or a tense meeting between English street gangs. Masterfully curated, the lyrics reveal a progression of narratives that keeps the listener enthralled and wanting more. The Ballroom Thieves’ latest EP spotlights the trio’s powerful, eclectic songwriting and proves it key to their future success.

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