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Darren Hayman - Florence

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 9 / 11 / 2015

Darren Hayman - Florence
Label: Fika Recordings
Format: LP


Modest but appealing album from the ever-productive Darren Hayman, which he recorded entirely solo while staying in Florence in Italy

Having completed his epic, conceptual album about witch trials, Essex and the English Civil War ('The Violence') and seen it receive the best reviews since his Hefner heydey, Darren Hayman has slowed down the frantic pace of releases that often saw him releasing one album only after he'd finished recording another. Instead, seemingly vindicated by how well 'The Violence' was received, he has spent the last few years on 'projects' rather than albums. At the start of 2015, he released – perhaps to more acclaim and interest than he expected – 'Chants For Socialists', a collection of William Morriss poems set to music. He has also issued a cassette-only collection of folk lullabies for children, a taster 7” for a new band he has formed with Emma Kupa and – at the other end of the long scale of his varied interests – three EPs of improvised electronica recorded as Brute Love with Emma Winston (a regular member of his Secondary Modern/Long Parliament live band). His latest venture are a series of songs and videos recorded on his visits to 'Thankful Villages' (those “blessed” locations where nobody lost their lives in World War One). Amidst all this, his first new full album of original songs in three years arrives somewhat under the radar. Hayman himself has promoted it by posting on Twitter, “Florence will be the first album I've ever released with no other musicians whatsoever. This doesn't really seem like a selling point.” Perhaps not, but it will be a shame if this album goes unnoticed, because it is among his best work. (Though it's hard not to grudgingly admire Hayman's refusal to play the media-game of defining his whole life around album release dates). Recorded, as he said in the tweet, completely by himself while visiting a friend in Florence (from where the album gets its title), its songs sum up a remarkably productive decade since Hayman began recording as a solo artist. Over that decade, he has developed his own sound – fingerpicked acoustics and ukes, layered over bubbles of synths and drum machines, with the occasionally rickety electric guitar line. On this album, you also hear how much his vocals have improved from the enthusiastic, but generally out-of-tune rasp heard on those early Hefner singles to being capable of delicate three-part harmonies. Across the album, there are moments to savour: a charming fuzzy guitar solo on 'From the Square to the Hill'; an Americana-infused guitar riff on 'When You're Lonely, Don't Be', a gradual layering of guitar lines and multi-tracked vocals on 'Didn't I Say Don't Fall In Love With Him' and, as the album draws to a close, a pretty slice of psych-folk that could easily pass for a long-lost sixties relic, the kind of thing Stuart Maconie occasionally plays to calm people down during his 'Freak Zone' programme. One song is an absolute shoo-in for anyone's list of Hayman's best songs – the synth based 'Post Office Girl'. A dreamy pop song, it could have fallen straight off 'Local Information', the wholly synth-based album he recorded with the French after Hefner's split. Like the songs on that album, it is observational and autobiographical, honing in on the details that other songwriters tend to miss. It's also a charming ode to the reality of life as a musician in the age of Bandcamp, when time between writing songs is spent in long post office queues posting out vinyl and making sure the 'Fragile' sticker is in the write place. The nod to old favourite, 'Hymn to the Postal Service' won't be lost on Hefner fans either. Modest and restrained, yet pretty and tuneful, anyone who has found their way to this website is bound to enjoy this.

Track Listing:-
1 Nuns Run the Apothecary
2 Break Up With Him
3 From The Square to the Hill
4 When You're Lonely, Don't Be
5 On the Outside
6 Didn't I Say Don't Fall In Love With Him
7 Lose Me and Find Me
8 Post Office Girl
9 Safe Fall
10 The English Church

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