Darren Hayman may well be the busiest man in indie pop (not a perfect genre label for him, but it’ll do). He recorded an song a day in January, oversaw the Hefner re-release programme, worked on the Vostok 5 album and exhibition and has a string of forthcoming releases planned out. His latest release is a quiet and thoughtful set of songs played on a ship’s piano, a cheap folding piano that was used on-board boats prior to arriving in Hayman’s possession.
The album comes with a back story, that of an attack that Hayman suffered in November 2009. This attack left him with physical injuries (a fractured skull) and a need for quiet music to help in his recuperation. This album is the output of that need, and is a soft, understated, calm and (in Hayman’s words) “…round and smooth like well worn pebbles”.
Opener ‘I Taught You How To Dance’ has all the trademarks of a classic Hayman love-song, the slightly awkward honesty would sit comfortably on any of his early Hefner records. The arrangement is just lovely, vocals, piano and soft drumwith a Steve Pretty trumpet solo lifting the middle section.
‘Old House’ is even more plaintive, and the lyric “My hearts with the keys by the door” is as effecting as anything he has written. ‘Cuckoo’ is another slow burning love song, but in the context of this album it is loud and lively, a chorus of friends adding their voices in the coda.
The album is less obviously thematic lyrically than his other recent albums (excepting the January Songs project) although love and relationships make up the bulk of the songs here, and few songwriters depict relationships better. Musically it is one of the most cohesive works of his career, his voice and the piano are at the centre of every song and that makes for exactly the kind of calm, smooth and therapeutic listen that he craved.
‘Know Your Place’ and ‘Clown Sky’ are both atmospheric (although very different) instrumentals, and demonstrate that a career in independent film soundtracks could beckon if he decided to add another string to his musical bow.
There really isn’t a bad (or less than good) track on the album, and to individually review each and every track on the album would make for a very dull read. Regular visitors to this site will know that we rate his work very highly, he has sat high in every one of our end of year charts. So to say that this album sits up with his best work is high praise, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the end of year chart yet again.
By Dorian Rogers
Darren Hayman plays a solo piano show at Brighton’s Unitarian church on the 13th November with support from Jack Hayter and tickets can be purchased at http://www.wegottickets.com/event/132273. (Note that this is an afternoon show from 2pm)