The One Tonic’s five song EP Won’t Stop is the product of singer, musician, and songwriter Matt Soren’s experiences living life in recovery from chemical dependency and enduring the life-threatening illness of his wife. You will find no direct references to either experience in the lyrics of these songs, but Soren implies much throughout and hearing the songs with those trials in mind makes the listening experience even more memorable. The alternative electronic rock pedigree of the EP’s five songs harbors connections to similar acts such as Muse, among others, but the lyrical point of view breaks with such acts in its resolute willingness to stay hopeful in the face of life’s difficulties.

The opener and title track underlines that. “Won’t Stop”, in spite of its restrained tempo, has an improbably rousing air that captures your attention from the outset and keeps it for the duration of the song. The weaving of electronic music, Dan Costello’s jagged guitar, and Josh Roda’s drumming creates quite a cacophony of sound that is nevertheless immensely musical rather sound for the sake of sound. The lyrics aren’t particularly poetic, but they establish a visceral and unshakable connection with listeners. The production frames all of this in a physical and dramatic way.

“Happy to Feel” dispenses with the attitude running through the title track in favor of a more vulnerable approach and, though electronic sounds run through the cut, there’s a stronger use of dynamics throughout this track than we hear with the first song. Dan Costello’s guitar takes on a more prominent role with this number than the first song and Soren adds complementary guitar as well. The song has an interesting lyrical message that should be clear for any attentive listener and Soren’s vocal is a perfect fit for the musical landscape with its emotional tone and his obvious investment in every word.

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“Not Your Tool” is the product of Soren’s efforts alone as he plays every instrument during the recording. His talents as a multi-instrumentalist are beyond question and he acquits himself particularly well as a drummer, but the production captures an intensely physical and hard-hitting drum sound. The track manifests much of the same chin held high attitude present in the title track and the assertive language gives him plenty to work with as a vocalist. His phrasing is emphatic without ever pushing too hard or overplaying its hand.

The last track “Letting Go” is, arguably, the most interesting track on the release and puts a bold exclamation point on the collection. Soren aims for much more ambitious goals with this musical arrangement; earlier songs manipulate dynamics in compelling ways. The varying pace of the track holds together rather than feeling discordant and provides a theatrical setting for Soren’s best vocal on the EP. Won’t Stop is a passionate personal statement that never risks obscurity; the songs are full of universality certain to connect with a wide audience if afforded the opportunity to hear his creativity in full flight as it is here.

Sebastian Cole