Second Hand Poet-
Surrey-based Bedroom Acoustics troubadour, presents songs of rare affirmation.
Little Sun is available via:
Bedroom Acoustics vol. 1 available at:
THE solo acoustic ‘genre’/market is one that is safe from entropy…
and liquidation. It is simultaneously the most common form of modern music, as well as the hardest to crack. If you are armed with an acoustic guitar and little more, then there is instantly a high workload; and the results still need to reflect mandation. When thinking of bands, if you have a four or five-piece group (as well as more or less), then duties are shared; responsibility becomes a fraction, and there is creative and human support that eases the burden. Of course ‘the more is merrier’, or ‘strength in numbers’ can be seen as a false equivalency or an overstatement. The band involved have to have the quality and ambition for that to be true, otherwise larger quantities can have a detrimental effect. For the solo market, there are benefits and drawbacks. In terms of positives, there is creative freedom. You do not need to negotiate with a fellow writer, nor do you need to pass your ideas through a committee or voting process. Greater freedom, as well as augmented potential output are rewards. You can blend sounds, genres, styles, moods; without suffering vitriolic band feedback or any trade restrictions. If the results hit home, and there is adulation and success, then the feelings of self-worth and resolve, make for a great sensation. Of course, there are a greater number of hardships, hindrances and stumbling blocks. Parallel to life itself, music has inherent autosomal dominant issues for the lone ranger. There are no sounding boards to say if an idea has no validity or value; 100% of creative output derives from one person; fatigue and over self-assessment can lead to decay, as well as there been an ever-present danger of relegation and sublimation. The solo market is one that is ever-expanding and crowded. There are no quotas or controls, so the numbers rise, unabated. It makes perfect sense: it does not rely on hiring band members, thus making it easier to make personal and easily-accessible music. Issues arise, when trying to separate the good from the bad and the ugly. For all your legends: Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Neil Young etc., and your modern-day icons: Bon Iver, P.J. Harvey, Laura Marling etc. there is a disproportionately high number of superficial and plain awful examples of the breed. This is a point that bothers me most. For all the commendations that should be levied at the sole artist, it is not simply enough to record songs and hope for the best. The rules of the game apply equally, and unless you have a singular voice, set of lyrics, sound scape or collection of songs, then it is not worth turning up at all.
Duality and dichotomy of quality and quantity are inscrutably harsh mistresses: subject to fickle public minds, changing demands, and undefined limits. Getting a clear head and knowing what you have to achieve borders on the impossible, so the best thing to do (for the worthy and talented artist) is to believe in what you write, and make it the best you can. Hailing from Surrey, a much-underrated and underexposed county, Jamie, A.K.A. Second Hand Poet, is a brand new artist, with fledgling wings and hungry sights. His name, ambition and potential is built up from the aggregation of a steely ambition, modesty and charming back-story. His online presence is limited at the moment, consisting mainly of BandCamp, Facebook and Twitter coverage, but given the nature of his recordings and his infant steps, it is hardly surprising. The man behind the Poet has an air of mystery to him. Aside from his forename, and a few minor details being known, his biography is scarce and skeletal. As with my featured act yesterday (Surrey’s Nylon Sky), there is little indication as to the influences and idols of our protagonist; nor any signs of what is contained within the songs. The surprise and summations arrive when the tracks are unveiled, and reveal themselves. The title of the 5-track ‘mini album’/E.P.- Bedroom Acoustics vol. 1- has obvious derivations. The sounds you hear come courtesy of the four walls, floor and door of Jamie’s bedroom. It is not fair to call it ‘lo-fi’ or ‘outsider’; it is more accurate and concise to describe it thus: personal. Honest, personable and relatable. The likes of Morrissey, Nick Drake and their modern ilk, started out in the bedroom. It is the natural first step for all artists; and Second Hand Poet’s sounds make you feel as though you are there with him. It will be fascinating to see if he graduates and moves to the studio as adulation and appreciation arrives; or whether the sounds will be safely ensconced within four walls in Surrey.
The second track from E.P., Little Sun, has evocations- in the early stages- of authoritative sources. There are indie edges, lighter Britpop hints, and above all, a keen and sharp ear for melody and mood-setting. The acoustic scenes and lines, swoon and endeavour with riparian flavours. At once the atmosphere is light and sensual; there is a sense that the authour is trying to convey scenes filled with sun, Summer, and peace. The string-picking is impressively accomplished and solid, and displays a sharp and bright talent. So few solo artists, especially those whom purvey acoustic numbers, are not particularly notable for their guitar skills. Second Hand Poet has a clear passion, as well as a skilled hand, and is able to mix sounds and sensations over the course of a couple of seconds, making the introduction propulsive, as well as taut and emblazoning. The 23 seconds or so that it is present, is enough to build up speculation and intrigue, so when the vocal arrives, expectations are high. The vocal is strong and emotive. The fact that the song was recorded within a bedroom does not detract from the quality of the recording. The guitar is clean and clear, and the vocal has a clarity that shines through, but also a slight far-off quality that adds weight to what is being sung. With regards to the nature of the voice itself, there are certainly modern tones and influences within the flavour notes: comparisons can be drawn with some contemporary colleagues. Emphasis is largely on the timbre and weight of the voice, rather than the diversity of it. Lyrically, there is honesty and openness: “I’m not perfect”and “My whole melody is wrong”, point towards a young man with anxiety and unresolved tension. If the scenes and settings of the intro. hinted at lighter and brighter parables, the ensuing words and heaviness of soul, point towards doubt and uncertainty. The song has ambitions to linger within your mind, and it does through a number of ways. Aside from the vocal being rooted within 2013, and the subject being something everyone can relate to, the way that the words and intentions are expressed is impressive. Many artists would tell their tales, with little consideration lent towards projection and resonance. Second Hand Poet mixes diffidence with angry protestation: some lines are punctuated sternly, before being countered by an emotionally overwhelmed riposte or rejoinder. This unique hybrid is a key focal point, and something that adds gravity to the song. The chorus has an air of mystery and open interpretation: “Hey Little Sun/Look what you’ve done”; emotions run high and there is a suggestive shrug elicited. If some of the themes of personal dislocation and uncertainty are prevalent: “Feeling lost/And/Stuck on a cross”, for example, then the way in which they are presented does not bring you down. The voice does not wallow too much nor hide its scars beneath thin-veiled deceit; the guitar remains strong and focused: hints of Noel Gallagher can be detected in lighter-edged (What’s the Story) Morning Glory. Towards the latter stages of the track, the Little Sun is turned upon, put onto the stand, and given accusatory regard: “Burned away/Chosen day”, is delivered with an emphatic guilt-trip and disregard. The tension that mounts is temporised, slightly, by the ensuing guitar passage: it picks and strums with delicate touches, before being swallowed and replaced with the final vocal touches.
I hope that in the future Second Hand Poet gains wider appreciation. He has a voice and sound that is almost tailor-made for the live scene, and will win over local patrons and those further afield, alike. The title of the E.P. suggests that further volumes will be unveiled in coming months, and will be curious to see what moves are made next. Whether there will be a move to the studio, and an incorporation of percussion and strings; or the format and structure will remain in tact, is yet to be seen. In the initial stages, the decision to present bedroom sounds and summations is brave and smart. It shows that the authour is comfortable with his surroundings, and knows the vitality and importance of authenticity and narrative. The songs within Bedroom Acoustics paint the portrait of a talent whom could supersede the local scene, and make his way to festivals and larger venues. It is a very of-the-moment release, and one that does not suffer from the weaknesses of many within the solo scene and the associative flaws. The proficiency and striking acoustic playing is a highlight, and the lyrics are capturing and sharp. It is always interesting to hear where future talent may originate from, and what their core values and themes will be. Second Hand Poet is the sound of a heavy-heart, curious mind and endeavouring sound; above all it is a mandate filled with…
PLENTY of potential.