The Triangle has never been short on talented singer-songwriters, and in the past four years, Chapel Hill's S.E. Ward has thrown her hat into the ring. She's released a handful of songs, but her latest project, Leaving, is her most focused and strongest yet.
Leaving is the follow-up to Ward's 2016 EP, GoodBye, which featured three meandering, intimate tracks that recalled both Sharon Van Etten's poignant reflections and the haunting resonance of Angel Olsen's "Unfucktheworld." But on Leaving, Ward benefits from a full band, which lets her more effectively render multiple moods across the EP's taut twenty minutes.
"False Flag" rings true to its title as it opens the EP. With a tightly strummed guitar riff and a heavy kick-drum beat, it briefly sounds like paint-by-numbers rock meant to sell Subarus. But Ward quickly veers in another direction as her band bursts through and she sings about not giving a damn about her country. It's a welcome and clever surprise
"High and Mighty" is an ambling, dreamy track that, at first, sounds like a leftover cut from GoodBye. But Ward frames her bilingual vocals in Spanish and English with jagged, droney guitar parts that throw her drifting voice into sharp relief. Ward's singing stays distant for the duration of Leaving, which draws you into each tune.
Powered by a rolling bass line and heavy drums, "Nights Out" feels heavily inspired by shoegaze, but "Untitled," the EP's closing track, is perhaps the most straightforward indie-rock number of the set. Its touches of synth lend the song the slightest edge of eighties nostalgia. Ward ends the song with a refrain of "I forgive myself, I forgive you," which makes for a tender and touching finish.
Leaving seems to follow the George Costanza rule of ending on a high note, and it works for Ward just fine. She proves she's got plenty of intriguing approaches in her back pocket, but leaves you wanting more.