Leavn It All Behind
Leavn It All Behind is available from
The E.P. Offtime is available via iTunes:
Bedroom D.I.Y. wonder from a young Australian you may never have heard of. This year- and his latest E.P.- will soon correct that.
IT is still the embryonic stages of January, yet I am still constantly being told….
‘Happy new year’. It seems odd, being that it is the 4th January. I guess it is hard transitioning from one year to the other- it takes a while to get seated in and relaxed. That being said, it has struck a chord in my mind. Subconsciously, my mind and perception is still asleep in 2013- and seems determined to have a bit of a lie-in. As I reflect back on the previous year, I have been trying to word a single word that best sums up the musical output. It has been a hard brainstorming session, yet the distillation and boiling point comes down to the single term: variable. I have been thrilled by some songs and albums- disappointed by others. For my money the top three albums of 2013 were produced by Queens of the Stone Age (…Like Clockwork); The National (Trouble Will Find Me) and Laura Marling (Once I Was An Eagle). I have mentioned these three disparate acts regularly (loyal readers will pay testament to that fact). Queens of the Stone Age (in no small sense) represent the epitome and embodiment of what music should be: primal, ever-changing yet comforting. The Homme-led band befuddled critics when they released Era Vulgaris back in 2007. It was seen as a step back- by many critics- and there seemed to be an unhealthy amount of filler on the disc. It is no surprise that the album didn’t fare as well as many expected. The band had barely stopped recording since there inception, and had witnessed many fractious moments- including the sacking of their long-time bassist Nick Oliveri. A sense of fatigue mandated the sounds on Era Vulgaris, and there was perhaps an inclination that Homme was experimenting in the wrong direction. Wind forwards a few years and after a tumultuous period which saw Josh Homme almost die (after complications incurred during a back operation) and slump into a depression, something incredible happened. Homme had never stopped recording music but there was a notable absence felt. …Like Clockwork was a triumph, not just because it was such a surprise, but strangely because of this: it was as good as everyone expected it to be. Critics were stunned because they had written the band off almost- after Era’- and were not expecting such a firestorm of creativity. I- the loyal fan- was not shocked at all. The album (…Like Clockwork) is one of the few albums I have heard with no filler. It is a solid and surprising set of songs that constantly causes me to smile and sing along. The National and Laura Marling are artists whom have not missed a step during their prodigious trajectory. The former- U.S. giants and kings of intellectual introspection- showed how consistent they are as a band. They did not alter their paradigm or aesthete- instead merely keeping the quality high and keeping true to their own voice. I have high hopes that The National will be thinking of their new L.P. and I am sure that it will be as wonderful as Trouble Will Find Me. Laura Marling is an artists whom has always bowled me over. She seems publicity-shy to the point of non-existence, which I find mesmeric. In an age where media whores and attention-seekers are synonymous and rife, it is a refreshing breeze we have in Marling. She relocated to L.A. last year, yet found it to be a source of new inspiartion. Her album, Once I Was An Eagle, showcased her incredible and thought-provoking lyrics; her captivating voice and wonderful sonic templates. My point is, that the best and brightest moments of 2013 were turned in by established acts. My favourite song was Reflektor by Arcade Fire. These Canadians have been on the scene many a year, and although their Reflektor album was not up to their usual standard, the title track was a glorious and fever dream of a track. As I scope around and cast back, I am struggling to find a ‘new’ act or band whom matched the highs of the aforementioned. In my near-weekly role as loquacious reviewer, I have scribbled furiously about new music. I have focused on the likes of Issimo, Universal Thee, Emily Kay, Chess and Ryan Wilcox: all of whom are fledgling; yet all capable of huge success. By featuring on new acts, I have been giving pause for thought. When I reviewed Lydia Baylis I was struck at how mature and professional her tracks were- she seemed like she was born to record music. The range and nature of the music (from the new acts) has excited me greatly. It is vital that established and legendary acts are keeping the bar raised high- they deserve the attention given the rather fickle and dangerous lack of attention span many music-lovers have. For my liking there has been too few new acts that have bustled and hustled the top dogs. I am confident- I say it every year- that this year will see a redress. With the likes of Baylis et al. we are witnessing a prosperous baby boom, and seeing some future stars in our midst. The male solo realm has been one that has been a bit… quiet, for my liking. Most of my new act feature-ees have been bands or female solo acts, and I have often struggled to find too many male idols. I have often alluded to the fact- and will not bore you again- that the solo market is the hardest to crack- as there are so many participants. Historically, bands have always dominated airplay and attention, yet it is vital that solo acts are given fair due, in order for one to break from homogenisation. As much as I love to proffer and provide adulation to home-grown talents, 2013 was a year which brought many international flavours into the boiling pot. In all my reviews, I only once encountered this phenomenon: an Australian male solo artist.
A while back I reviewed Joe McKee. Although- technically speaking- raised in the U.K., McKee is Australian-raised, and his inspiration and voice emanated from here. I know that there are artists such as Matt Corby doing great things, yet I have not heard of too many other Australian solo acts. Being a T.V.-glaring rube, most of my exposure to Australian music comes via Home and Away. In spite of it being an awesome show, Home and Away always features some great Aussie acts- although most are either bands or female solo acts. When one wants to track down Australian flair- outside of Summer Bay- then the task is almost insurmountable. I have often criticised music media with being lazy as well as too narrow in their focus, though occasionally they get off their arses and point people in prosperous directions. When browsing Paul Lester’s ‘New band of the day’ feature in The Guardian, I was brought to the attention of Harts. Paul Lester is a critic and reviewer I have been somewhat ambivalent towards in the past- he often seems to be dismissive of great acts; sycophantic of mediocre ones. When reading his feature on Harts, he seemed to be right on the money. Many here in the U.K. will not be familiar with today’s act, and it is high-time that the media (and social media) corrects the imbalance and poor communication links (which have caused this issue). Harts’ lone star is one Darren Hart- an exceptional talent to watch. The young man has garnered comparisons with the purple pocket rocket that is Prince; due to many distinct reasons. Prince is an artist whom is a multi-instrumentalist; a producer and songwriter; spellbinding singer, and icon. Prince’s ethos seems to rotate around doing as much work as possible, and having as few people contributing- or watering down- to his majesty. Hart is a similarly-ambitious prospect. In an era where homemade recording is not only an affordable option, but also a preferable one (for many), Hart is the poster boy for the bedroom musician. All of the sounds that you will hear on his E.P. (as well as Leavn It All Behind) were created by Hart. Disco and funk sparks have been heard seldom over the past year. I guess one can say that Daft Punk’s Get Lucky was a ‘disco song’- albeit in a very modern sense. There has not been a true reappropriation and recapitulation of the disco era, since its untimely demise. Acts whom dare to assimilate and integrate disco spikes into their palette are few and far between, yet Hart is determined to bring it back. It is made all the more impressive given that he is a 19-year-old. I have always hated the way that many fixate on age- feeling that achieve greatness young is more impressive than if you were older. My wonder stems from the fact that a teenage Australian would not necessarily indoctrinated to the splendours of ’70s disco. As a 30-year-old I was raised on a diet of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan: the geniuses of the ’60s and ’70s. Funk and disco were background noises to me, and it seems that a natural death had been achieved somewhere around the 1980s. Hart is not somewhat whom lazily parodies and mimics the templates of the disco acts of old. As well as skilfully updating the funk and disco tracks of the ’70s, he manages to modernise the overall sound by adding enough guitar to make it appeal to the pop and rock lover. It is not funk-rock, mind, yet more of a neo-disco-cum-modern-funk-co-efficiency. Before I get down to business, let me give you a little biography on the Australian boy-wonder. Darren Hart was born in Melbourne in 1992, and was exposed to a wide array of musical styles as a child. One can detect romanticism, funk, rock, soul and blues within his tracks, and this sense of diversity was enforced from a young age. Hart cut his first track, Back To The Shire, back in 2010- and it is a track which pricked many an ear. In the months between 2010 and 2012, Hart was busy working on his debut E.P. Although Offtime has been in the ether for over a year, it is little-known on these shores. The five track set shows a young man whom is restless and pioneering, and it is no surprise that a whirlwind of praise blew his way. The likes of The Brag, The Dwarf and Concert Blogger paid tribute to the E.P., seeing it as a revolutionary indie-rock wonder; a rival to early-Prince; as well as being a near-masterpiece of bedroom-crafted brilliance. Something disturbing has been happening in Hart’s native land. For some reason, many Australian radio stations overlooked the E.P.- and continue to overlook Hart now. From a nation that provides few of the all-time greats of music, it is worrying that such a talent is being subjugated and supressed. The likes of BBC Radio 6 have provided international relief, yet the simple fact is this: why the hell are Australian outlets being so distant? The Mars Volta praised Hart’s ear for melody; Triple J praised the “one man music machine” of a talent, and many others have been similarly impressed. His E.P. may have been given slight attention, but the new single Leavn It All Behind is being filtered into the international consciousness. I am hoping that the attention the new single will receive, will also help gain retrospective acclaim for the E.P.- as there are some fantastic songs contained within. With all this information to hand- as well as a newfound respect for Hart- I settled down to survey the single, and was staggered by the results.
The first thing that one notices about Leavn It All Behind, is that Hart gets off to the races immediately. As the pummelling, industrial beat slams into the frame, I am reminded of the intro. to Michael Jackson’s Dangerous, and especially She Drives Me Wild. The beat teases and stutters, before swings its fists wildly. There is the same melodic swing of Bill Withers’ Lovely Day as there is in the initial seconds of the intro. Strum und Drang as well as funk and dance byplay, and your head is taken into a different direction. Feet will be tapping, and there is a great excitement that Harts unveils. Electric guitar shreds and moans with glee, and there is a gratifying sexual edge to its sound. In that sense, one can draw some comparisons with Purple Rain-era Prince. Above all, the sense of personality and individuality are present early on. Although Harts has some clear influences, there is never a sense of tribute at all. As the steady but noticeable drumbeat mingles with the taut and salacious guitar, it is impossible not to be drawn in and intoxicated. The pace drops down slightly to make way for the first vocal snippets. The early themes concern defiance and personal strength (“Can’t take me for a fool“). The track deals with moving on and finding a new personal space. Its author has stated that the track was inspired by a messy break-up. It is not clear whether the break-up was with a partner, or something less ephemeral. Hart used to be under the employ of Island Records, but the association was broken before the recording of the track. Whether the uneasiness (yet positivity) of the lyrics are an assessment during the wake of the break-up, is unsure. Hart contests that Leavn It All Behind concerns “walking away from broken promises, propaganda and people leading you on“. It is something that everyone can relate to, and from a personal perspective it is something I can emphasise with (being associated with certain people whom take and never give). Break-ups or cessation of relations often inspire some of the most ambitious and wonderful songs, and it seems that the experience- whether truly positive or not- has propelled the lustre within. As Hart talks about being “kicked around too long” a lascivious and groaning guitar wail tees it up; our hero light and sweet of voice as he delivers the line. It is clear that Hart has a clear knack for conveying emotion- be it sonic or literal- as he expertly blends funky guitar with traditional disco ethos. Hart has a voice that is capable of agile and soothing falsetto, but for the most part, is a silkier and darker vocal. The star of the show is very much THE SONG, and it is the swirling and entrancing sonic wind nestles beautifully with the restrained but effective vocal. The song’s title is repeated and looped to great effect, and although our hero has been taken for a fool for “far too long“, there is no sense of the maudlin. Uprising, moving on and independence are very much a holy trinity; there is plenty of guts on display. Hart does not want to fight, instead just get out of where he is and move on. With every fresh injection of electric guitar bliss comes a fresh revelation. In the same way that Michael Jackson’s Dangerous dealt with being taken for a fool; having his heart broken; self-recrimination, Hart also carries a certain burden. Jackson dealt with these anxieties with aplomb; injecting plenty of menace and force into his tracks, demonstrably showing how no one would get in his way. Hart wears his name on his sleeve, yet has a comparable grit and determination. Our hero does not alienate the listener and hide in the shadows. Fun and energy are ever-present and one is so engrossed in the aural bliss that you never get the sense of any doubts or anger. When the line “Are you with me for the ride?” is repeated many times, once again one is sucked in and won over. The author wants the listener to go with him; to share a similar sense of rebirth; to wander and wonder. Whereas most songs address- or are concerned with- a sweetheart or embittered ex, Leavn It All Behind is much more all-inclusive and utilitarian. It is a song that everyone can relate to, and one that speaks to all. At the mid-point of the song, Hart once again flexes his shredding hand, displaying a menacing and impressive talent. It should come as no surprise that Hart is so adept when it comes to instrumentation and force, yet it is surprising that one man can do so much. There is no extraneous input or divisive voice that our hero has to contend with. His music is very much his own vision and by having pure control, the resultant sound is much more liberated and joyous. If your brain has not been blown by the incredible solo that defines the middle point of the song, then the second half certainly will. With little vocalisation, the initial stages of the song’s second half concerns keeping the sonic intrigue high. Hart softens the mood and temporises the electricity, slightly. At the back is the persistent and unquenchable electronic and disco funk; whereas up front is a more delicate and rhythmic electric guitar coda. The lyrical themes do not stray from the pulpit too much, and Hart is very much on the path of ‘telling it like it is’. The centre message and epicentre of the song is this: our hero has been taken for a fool for too long, and wants things to change. Hart says that he “Don’t want to fight“; simply he wants to forget the past and go onto a better life. Hart is quite an oddity, given his age. Whereas most teenagers and young men are concerned with the vicissitudes of city life; the tempestuous nature of love (and banal pondering), Hart is much more mature and original in his approach. Sure, he writes songs about love and introspection, but is much more concerned with positivity and personal growth. There is a great intelligence and sense of nuance within Leavn It All Behind. High and low-pitched vocal weave into one another; subtle beats and squally guitar blend seamlessly, and the light and dark shades combine to create a harmonious whole. The track is never cluttered or too jam-packed; instead the minimal amount of sounds are infused to create the maximum profitability. As the song dies down after six minutes, you are left exhilarated and slightly exhausted by what you have just heard.
We are a mere four days into 2014, yet artists like Hart give me ammunition to get really excited by what is to come. I have said that Queens of the Stone Age’s latest L.P. is my favourite from last year (there was no close competition at all), and rightfully so. Established acts such as Q.O.T.S.A. have the momentum, the experience, and most importantly, the public backing that leads to terrific albums. There is little sense of nervousness or unpredictability when they put out their music. There will always be ears and eyes trained to their shore, and they will always have a huge fan base and market. The fate for the brand new artist is less assured. I guess this is why there is a little more of the tentative when it comes to making huge impressions. They need to slow build and be cautious when presenting themselves. As there as so many new acts around, it is incredibly difficult to forge ahead early on. In spite of this, the first steps are crucial if one is not only wanting to survive, but also be assured of longevity. Too many artists are content to just be ‘like everyone else’ or be safe and conservative with their sound. It is a necessity that as many people as possible make music and get out there, yet if you are presenting beige and mediocre acoustic sounds, or generic and unspectacular guitar sounds, chances are you will be buried without a trace soon enough. Music is fickle, but it is an industry that should solely reward the most deserving and the most talented. I am hoping that 2014 will see a shift away from the talent cretins; the propagation of twee-voiced acoustic dullards and the plastic pop muppets. In some way there needs to be a cull and extermination of the lesser orders and the weakest of the species. When this occurs, it clears space and gives room for artists such as Harts to breathe. I have been wondering why Hart and his music has not been widely played until now. His homeland has shamefully neglected its charm, and more fool them. The music industry in Australia is quiet compared to that in the U.K. and U.S. and the quality is no higher than it is here. For that reason, the country should rue their folly and eat humble pie. Because there is a near-fatal kink in the chain, it has meant that Harts has had to be discovered, almost by happenstance. With Leavn It All Behind, I hope that people will listen up and take notice. The track is a bold and brilliant statement from a young talent whom has the skill and personality to stick around for years- or decades- to come. In his blog during a post (dated 29th December, 2013), Hart thanked his fans and their “belief” in him. Mingling alongside the thanks and profuse admiration he has for his supporters, Hart also enjoyed late-night McDonalds, pizza and episodes of The Simpsons (after gigs), as well as the praise he has received concerning his guitar playing. Here is a man whom is clearly down-to-earth and humble, and someone whom you could share a beer with and have a chat with, too. There is no pretention or sense of aloofness to him; instead Hart is someone keen to embrace his fans- old and new- and get his music heard as far and wide as possible. I have been infuriated by too much praise being heaped on too many new acts, whom are too undeserving. Although the older guard have dominated the end-of-year polls, there is a necessity for newer acts to be braver and more daring with regards to their music. As soon as we cut out the crap and mundane core of new music- consisting of one-note performers- and celebrate the most talented, then the overall situation will improve. Darren Hart’s unique blend of Hindi-cum-Prince psychedelic disco-funk is something of a rarity. Last year I focused on a couple of acts based out of Sweden, whom are putting out the same sort of disco ambition. In those cases, I was impressed by the distinct sound and heady swirl that they projected; yet none of the acts measure up to Harts’ brilliance. Our 19-year-old has many years ahead of him, and it will be fascinating to see what sound he adopts for future E.P.s and albums. I hope that he does not abandon his unique template (in favour of something much more common), as he has a sound and punch that is going to be hard to match. As I stated earlier, all of the sounds and input you hear in the track were made by Hart himself. The entirety of the Offtime E.P. is the man in his bedroom, on his own, making music that he wants to make. For all the studio-based bands whom spend too much time and money on something unimpressive, artists such as Harts should be applauded for their way of life. On the evidence here, many new artists will be inspired to make sounds from the comfort of their room; up their game and concentrate their efforts, as well as create songs that are outside of their comfort zone. During a month that so far has been dominated to horrible weather and a harsh winter, we all need- and deserve- sunshine and happiness. Keep Harts on your mind and spin his music as much as possible, as it is clear that he will be a huge fixture in the coming months. Whether Australia gives him due attention and focus or not is another thing, yet Hart will have a welcoming home in the U.K. (or U.S.) should he choose. London and major cities have hungry audiences waiting to clasp artists such as this to their bosom, and I hope that Harts plays the U.K. real soon. Whether 2014 sees a new E.P. or album, or a series of singles is unclear, yet it seems that our hero is determined and excited to get started. Leavn It All Behind is a perfect indication of what could be forthcoming, and Offtime is readily available- to show where the young man has come from. If you are searching around for a new act to get excited about, and become in awe of, then you could do no wrong with Harts. The music is axiomatically top-drawer, and the man behind the music is an idol readymade for a dissolution and stuck-in-a-rut generation, as he provides a fresh lease of life. Whatever happens in the coming months, with regards to future releases, or gig schedule, one thing is for sure about Darren Hart:
HE is someone you will be hearing a lot more from in the coming year.