Time and place are key to this latest, comparatively low-key, release from Darren Hayman.
In recent years the former Hefner frontman has been embroiled in ambitious full-band projects, from putting William Morris’s political writings to music to a trilogy of albums about his native Essex.
His forthcoming project, an art and musical homage to those rare English villages where all their First World War soldiers returned alive, is set to be another large-scale piece of work.
But here he uses the more simple idea, of a short winter holiday in Florence staying at the apartment of his indiepop chums Elizabeth Morris and her husband Ola Innset, of Allo Darlin and Making Marks respectively, to write and record a melancholy collection of songs.
While a rare solo project it is far from being a lonely or sad album. Friendship is a key theme and there’s a cosy warmth to its winter setting too.
Opener Nuns Run the Apothecary is a great song about friendship. Here Hayman charts the directions and instructions from Morris and Innset to their apartment. ‘We’re sorry to miss you’ and ‘treat our home like your own’ are among the lovely phrases where Hayman draws out the sense of affection among friends.
There’s good music and melodies here too. From the Square to the Hill has the rhythm of a sightseer abroad, taking in the sky, buildings and people around him at that nothing time between Christmas and New Year.
In some ways this is my favourite Hayman album for some time. It’s got the song writing of the best of his Essex trilogy and the warmth of much of his January songs project, recorded at this same time of year and involving him writing, recording and releasing a song a day with help from his musical friends and social media community, including my own dog.
Although in a different city to his native London this most melancholy of times of year once again provides the perfect inspiration for his songwriting.
To buy Darren Hayman – Florence click here.
by Joe Lepper