Masquerading Time available at:
1ST August, 2015
The E.P. Life in Animation is available at:
Jim Beam– 9.5
Masquerading Time– 9.6
Little Spots– 9.5
Sintra; Jim Beam; Masquerading Time; Little Spots
Recorded and Mixed at Lounge Studios U.K. by Josh Haynes
IN this particular case, I have a few different…
subjects to bring up. In addition to locations and conceptions, the idea of start-up musicians is in my thoughts- but for now, male solo artists are in my thoughts. It has been a while since I have reviewed a male solo act- it has mainly been female solo acts or bands- so it is good to be back here again. I have been somewhat put-off by the contemporary mainstream acts- the likes of Ed Sheeran and James Bay. I know a lot of people like them- especially Ed Sheeran- but I find his (and their) music bland and predictable; no real nuance or sense of identity. It has been a while since I’ve been excited about a male solo act; really struck by their passion and music; the way they do things- there seems to be a drought of sorts. My featured act has plenty of ammunition to provide hope; make me feel somewhat hopeful- and be aware there are some great solo acts out there. My attention has been focused towards the girls and their music; the bands and their flair- now I am back with the boys again. The trouble with the male solo acts is there one-album longevity issue: a lot of acts come in with an impressive and promising debut; only to flounder and stutter- fall into a sophomore slump. Over the last year, I can think of few make acts that have stuck in the imagination- most of the great music has been produced by bands and the female artists. What I love about solo acts is the fact they have to do things themselves: there are few additional bodies and band members; they have to see to the day-to-day business and affairs. Knowing a lot of solo acts (mainly female) I know how hard they work: so much effort has to be put in; a hell of a lot of graft and promotion- it seems to be a never-ending cavalcade of social media sharing and touring; reaching as many faces as possible. Josh Haynes is one of many young, up-and-coming solo acts: he is working hard (doing bar work and various jobs) and really plugging. Being based out of London, he is in the right place- although the competition is high. I am in a very precarious position: being angry and depressed where I love- both in terms of property and the area of the country- I am desperate to get away; move to London- be in a place that is primed for the ambitious and creative; full of life and like-minded people. I am not going to bag (and indeed name) the area I love; suffice it say, it is not set-up for certain people; every day is depressing and angering. London is no angel and has its faults- busy and bustling; has its rough areas- yet there is a lot of misconception and prejudice. Aside from the snide country-dwellers- who hate any place that has more than a few people in- there is a ‘tourist attitude’ to the capital- people who occasionally visit think they have London sussed; they have no idea what it is really like- and how magical it can be. When it comes to music, London is a great place for the musician- the large cities do tend to be. Knowing how productive and supportive the likes of Manchester and Liverpool are- and how many great musicians are working with each other- London is regaining credibility and stature. At the moment, it is a hotbed of variegated and stunning music: some of the most enlivening and stunning musicians play here; it is definitely a vibrant and inspiring city. Aside from my romantic and lustful profferings- I will be with you soon, London- my point relates directly to solo artists. I know many people relocating to the capital: there are tonnes of great venues around; chances to busk and earn money- the flip-side is that there is some saturation. With so many artists plying their trade, how do you really stand out? Haynes is going about things the right way. At the moment he runs Lounge Studios U.K. – where his new E.P. was recorded and mixed- and is dedicated to making music; and bringing it to the masses. Haynes is- for now at least- an unknown quantity and under-the-radar commodity: without an official website (one will come in time) he does have a Twitter and Facebook account- and is building his name. If you are new to Haynes, here is a bit about the young musician (taken from his artist account on Facebook):
“Josh is a Multi-Instrumentalist, Producer and Sound Engineer based in London, UK. He is currently studying for his BA in Creative Musicianship at the renowned Institute of Contemporary Music Performance.”
Having chatted with him online, he comes across as gracious and embracing: someone who wants his music to connect- and really give an insight into his personality. When it comes to biography and idols; influences and story- the music will do most of the talking. When Haynes does grow and becomes a big success- it will happen in the next few years- that will give him the opportunity to lay-out his music and biography; have a complete and full website- showcase all his songs and photos; press quotes and videos. Before I get down to his music- and the beauty contained within his E.P. – Haynes is among an army of musicians taking their first steps. Most music-lovers are unaware of the hardships and drawbacks facing the modern-day musician. Before you get onto the music pages and into critics’ thoughts; before you get the gig call-ups and huge fan bases- there is an immense amount of leg-work to be completed. Raising finance to record songs; promoting your music- working so you can fund your music in addition paying rent/surviving. All of the city-life sweating; the making-ends-meet battles: for it all to matter, the music has to be on-point and different- go beyond what is already out there. Circling to my earlier point- with regards the male solo acts- Haynes is a step above his peers. There are some great solo acts out there, yet for the most part, the scene (with regards the boys particularly) is suffering from a lack of inspiration and originality- it all seems to be acoustic guitar-led love songs; uninspired rhymes and vocals; an eagerness to fit into moulds and market expectations. Life in Animation sees the young star take his first leap; show the world what he can offer- the results speak for themselves. The six-track E.P. sees the young artist spread his wing; show the full extent of his talent- it is one of the most immediate and fully-realised records I have encountered this year. Few artists have such confidence and commitment; Haynes does not stick with a tedious and one-dimensional acoustic guitar blend- the instrumentation and compositions pack in a lot of emotions and power; really running a gamut of scenarios and moods. With all that potential and early promise, how long before the festivals come a-calling?
If you are not familiar with Haynes’ style of music, then there are other artists that come to mind. Being influenced by Adam Jones, Mike Einziger, Stephen Carpenter, Slash (Oxford commas needed); John Mayer, Andy McKee, Ben Howard, Chino Moreno, Samuel Beam- they are all good starting places. Mayer and Howard come to mind. The former’s album Continuum boasts great blends of Pop and Blues-Rock. The album stripped things back; tied in Funk and Rock; it brims with maturity and contemporary- without coming across boring or stifled. Haynes teases genres and sounds; has a Blues/Blues-Rock affection- and laces that into Folk and Alternative blends. The songwriting (from Haynes) is impressively mature and focused; his lyrics and compositions are well-considered and grapple with a range of topics. An exceptional musician and voice, he has some Mayer-esque tones- if you are a John Mayer fan; you will find much to enjoy within Life in Animation. Ben Howard also comes to mind- when considering the music of Haynes. I Forgot Where We Were (Howard’s sophomore album from last year) the album is more widescreen and electric- compared to his acoustic-heavy debut. Howard grew tired of the album- and flogging it around the world- and changes his motives. The Folk-based finger-picking is less prominent; what you get are orchestral instrumentations and goose pimples by the barrel. Although Haynes’ E.P. has more Folk and acoustic moments- and less of the soundscapes and epic compositions- you can see comparisons between him and Howard. Like Howard, Haynes emotes and gets the listener entranced; the songs (on Life in Animation) go deeper than you’d expect- exceeding radio-friendly running times and surpassing the made-for-supermarket-adverts breed of songwriters. In a sea of samey and indeterminate singer/songwriters- who could be clones they sound so similar- Haynes is taking a rarified path. Like Howard, his music betrays expectations and reaches a lot further- stands out from the clan. If you are prone to either of these artists- or any of the acts listed above- Haynes will resonate and seduce. Essentially, if you like your music unique and unexpected- and not like every other solo act out there- then you will find music to love; Life in Animation is a special one-off- let’s hope he keeps up his momentum and originality; dares to break away from the tired and predictable pack.
Before assessing Masquerading Time– and getting to grips with the E.P. – it is worth looking back; see Haynes’ past work. A couple of years ago, Haynes recorded the song, Beer. Mainly acoustic-based, it looks at life and the search for love- wanting to find someone special; without that instant need for long-term plans. Looking at youthfulness and grabbing onto its vitality, Haynes’ voice is raw and scratched at times; augmenting that sense of passion and power- bringing the lyrics to life. Elements of Sheeran may seep out- in some of the composition notes and lyrics- yet Haynes is a more impressive and potent singer; the production is more lo-fi and bare. Allowing the words and notes to fully resonate, Beer is an early insight into his music- and what is to come.
A year later, Hero was unveiled. Built around a solid and impassioned coda- watching his hero go; the paen and praise towards a special person- the song is another stripped-back and raw track. Haynes’ voice is multi-tracked and at its peak: focused and committed, it mixes romance and strength. The guitar playing is potent yet sparse- the strum and sound is consistent and supportive- whilst the voice is very much at the centre. Mixing in debut album-era Ben Howard; touches of ‘60s and ‘70s Folk- Haynes sounds authoritative and compelling.
Since these tracks- that are available on his SoundCloud account- Haynes has kept the acoustic and Folk elements; expanded them and brought in new themes. The diverse songwriting appears throughout Life in Animation: stepping away from predictable themes, the E.P. boasts a roster of characters and scenery; thoughts and insights. In the past year, Haynes has added electronic elements; his confidence is higher now- his songs are more nuanced and tighter. Immensely impressive early-on, he has grown in talent: his lyrics are more gripping and insightful; very much a unique and personal product. With his voice fuller, richer and more assured there are no Ed Sheeran/modern singer comparisons- the music is very much Josh Haynes on his own. The six tracks of Life in Animation sparkle with distinction and colour; there are terrific moments and wonderful highlights- not something you can say about many male singer-songwriters. The important point to note is that originality: utilising acoustic and electric elements; changing themes and subjects; keeping the E.P. fresh and unpredictable- that is what wins out. Few contemporaries understand this vital point: if you sound like everyone else; you will never gain longevity and critical attention. Haynes has changed-up his sound; expanded it and made it more distinct- developed well since his earliest recordings.
Haynes plays every instrument except brass- both on Masquerading Time and on the other E.P. tracks- and his musicianship defines Masquerading Time’s opening moments. A fuzzing and spiraling guitar fuzz- that puts me in mind of Kings of Leon’s Only by the Night work- laces in ‘90s ‘Britpop optimism with of-the-moment Alternative threads. Woven together, it creates plenty of drama and intrigue. When Haynes arrives at the mic., early words possess anxiety and cliff-top precipice: “…desperate and close”; there is that unnerving sense of suffocation and entrapment. Comparing his situation in dark terms- “like a minefield at the road”- it seems romantic disentanglement and strain is afoot. Backed by a female backing- who adds to the evocative mood- the vocal is focused and passionate; never becoming too heavy-handed or anxious. Perhaps not completely forlorn and hopeless- at this stage Haynes has the confidence and sophomore sound of Ben Howard- as he faces his girl; eyes engulfed (in him) – “a velvet shade of blue”. In the early phases, the track has a distinct energy and drive. Weaving humour and pathos into hearts-on-the-line visions- our hero’s neck is cricked; like Jesus on the cross, Haynes is suffering a messianic ergonomic drama- there is a sense of wit and cuteness; some naivety and vulnerability. As the words unfold, the story becomes clearer: with his love’s skin exposed; the two ion each other’s arms- our man wishes he learned to dance. Befitting of the title- and appropriate in retrospect- your mind goes to the dancefloor; the two sweethearts locked in an embrace; awkward steps and hesitant dance. Throughout the song, you are struck by the personality and uniqueness of the lyrics. Not your clichéd she-said-we-said-I-went-she-left love story, there is a personal voice and real sense of reality. You imagine yourself watching the events unfold; the boy rather nervous and unsure- you try and imagine what the girl looks like; the lesser-heard conversations of the crowd around them. Being stuck in a cubicle- and smothered by the people around. Maybe a high school dance; a special event- there is a feeling of youthfulness and younger-days to the song- there is a tangible feel of atmosphere; the lyrics paint vivid and colourful pictures. Whilst the words barrel forth- Haynes accelerates his vocals at this point- the composition offers some neat little touches: subtle and effective guitar licks; a heavy slap of percussion. Each of these elements adds to the central story: Haynes has a real flair for storytelling and compositional importance. As the loves mask and dance through time/the night; the music masquerading time- the background comes into the spotlight. The guitar becomes snarling and enraptured; the drums riffled and avalanche-heavy- replacing the sensitivity and poetry with something more primal and direct. Building into a hypnotic riff-percussion duet- off the back of a wordless and rising vocal rush- Masquerading Time changes course; hits another gear- a hallmark of Haynes’ writing and musical ambitions. The song has a familiar and traditional feel, yet is never predictable and ordinary- quite the opposite in fact. The lyrics are unique and intelligent; the composition fertile and varied- the vocal(s) beautiful and powerful. Between music interludes, the chorus comes in to add a rush of vocal magic: by this stage, you are invested in the song; aware of the chorus- and find yourself singing along; cast-under by the weight and addictiveness (and simplify) of the expressions. In the final minute, there is that combination of compositional force and story development. The guitar work has some many shades and ideas- recalling various axe-men from Mark Knopfler to Slash; Pete Townshend to Matthew Followill. Whilst the vocal has completed its lion-share, the guitar leads the charge: never aimless or creatively bankrupt- how a lot of solo acts and bands can fill songs- Haynes remains dedicated and inventive. The riffs are sparkling and exhilarating; emotive and scenic- keeping the story going and evoking new images and possibilities. The final seconds emerge; the last notes emerge- and the song completes its campaign.
From the first to last- a point I will touch-upon when assessing the rest of the E.P. – Haynes is a master of all he surveys. A one-man band, every instrument was played by him- making it a very personal track. Band members and other musicians may have muted the song or not come up to the bar; perhaps there are financial reasons (why he takes all instruments on) – it just showcases what a talent Haynes has. Few solo artists in this age- aside from obvious examples such as Prince- are as multi-talented and flexible. As a producer, Haynes allows the song to breathe and engage; the words and notes are clear and polished- never over-produced or fake. If the production were too polished, the music would come across retrenched and plastic. Everything on Masquerading Time sounds vital and live-sounding; engaging and hugely impressive. As a songwriter, Haynes shows he has a distinct voice: the lyrics mix familial (financial) issues and witty asides; nervous coming-together and common anxieties- all mixed into a bold and exciting track. With a vocal performance- that reminds you of nobody else; has a huge weight of passion and clarity- that brings each sentiment to life; the listener is allowed access behind closed doors- into the author’s mind; transplanted directly into the song’s storyline. You find yourself rooting the players; hoping everything works out okay- confident the sweethearts will end the night on a high. Overall, Masquerading Time is a superb accomplishment: Life in Animation’s finest cut, it bodes well for future endeavor. If Haynes keeps up his pace and commitment, there is no telling how far he can go- few young songwriters have such immediacy and ability; sound so authoritative and compelling this early-on.
Social media has a funny way of turning people onto great music- in a way conventional media does not- and I am thankful for that. Josh Haynes is one of the best up-and-coming solo acts around; doing more than his male cohorts, his tracks range from romantic and scenic; slice-of-life moments and personal evocations. It is not just the subject matter that impresses: the compositions have a very unique and innovative slant; the backing vocals- female-led; apologies as I do not know her name- are lustful and beautiful; the lead vocals are always urgent and deeply impressive. Never outstaying its welcome, Life in Animation is as animated as its name/cover; it spills over with colour and tradition. The E.P.’s cover depicts a black-and-white sketch of Haynes- a background of cream- that could come off a ‘60s Folk album. It has charm and smile; it is minimalist and effective; it has plenty of intrigue- just like the music contained within. Before I give the E.P. itself a ‘mini-review’, I will end how I started: mentioning the male solo realm; the importance of location- and the proclivities of the modern music scene. I know I have named-and-shamed Ed Sheeran and James Bay- they are not that bad really; just not as good as they should be- and there are few modern idols. There are plenty of great female acts- and the band market is producing some great examples- yet the male solo acts are somewhat lackluster and under-developed. New music is doing most of the heavy lifting: the young and sapling acts are showing how it’s done- making the biggest waves and impressions. Haynes is working tirelessly and is an innovative and business-minded musician: in addition to running his own studio, he is finding his music- and highlighting the benefits of self-sufficiency; proving you can make a success of it- if you have the right attitude and outlook. It seems like the underground musicians can rise to the surface; replace the existing core- and revitalise the music scene. We have a lot of great bands and solo acts, yet there is still a leaning towards the media-based darlings; the obvious Pop names- a lot of great talent are getting overlooked. On that note, the future looks bright for music: with a lot of great bands nestling in the undergrowth; some genuinely great male artists coming through- and female artists dominating things- it looks rosy and bright. It is not just the quality that impresses me but the variation: the music does not stick to Pop and Rock lines; there are lots of genre-splicing acts and ambitious musicians. So where does Haynes fit into the agenda? Well, on the basis of his Life in Animation, he will be a name to watch- expect to see him make his way to the waves of 6 Music and Absolute Radio; the pages of N.M.E. and music’s finest press. London is producing some vibrant and eager musicians: not that it’s a fascinating point; the capital provides a financial base for artists. The wages tend to be higher- compared with the rest of the U.K. – and the rents are affordable (there are expensive areas yet the gentrified parts are perfectly reasonably-priced). Whereas other parts of the U.K. have low wages and high rents, London seems capable of striking a balance: leaving the musician with more disposable cash. It is not just the extra money that ensures music can be made; the social scene and cosmopolitan population mean there are opportunities and available ears- there are plenty of great bars and venues to play. With so many other acts; people migrating to the city- is it possible to stand out in London? If you have the talent, the recognition will come- finding the most talented can be a hard task. Aside from gig reputation and word-of-mouth, we rely on social media- or more accurately, the people who use it. If music is not shared and promoted; it becomes a led balloon- and lots of great talent goes to waste. Haynes need not worry. He is working endlessly to fund his ambitions; his music is assured and emotive; personal and original. Not many solo acts resonate in the mind, yet Haynes does: throughout his E.P. you are caught-up and spellbound; impressed by the details and talent.
Sintra begins the E.P. with a magisterial atmosphere. Quivering strings unite with woozy electronics; the mood is dusky and dark-lit- a night-time stroll in an empty city. Languid and evocative; uncertain and dreamy- it is a wonderfully dramatic and atmospheric projection. Sintra is a town and a municipality in the Grande Lisboa subregion (Lisbon Region) of Portugal. The town has arabesque estates and historic castles; primordial retreats and municipal buildings- all woven into a staggering and captivating landscape. Located near to Lisbon, the town is a tourist haven; a gorgeous slice of Portugal; boasting mountains and beaches; rich and colourful history- Haynes certainly sums the town up. With an aural swirl, you picture images and quiet scenes; dusty paths and sweeping views- magical and breath-taking by night; soul-calming and eye-opening by day. Strings ache and vibrate; the electronics bubble and flow- the composition is busy and layered; stunningly accomplished and emotive. Building the early moments, there are elements of Radiohead (during their Kid A experimental era); elements of Jazz and Blues; hazy soundscapes and snatches of Electro.-cum-Classic fusings. Before long, the percussion kicks the song to life; notches up the offensive- everything becomes tighter, sharper and more pronounced. The electronic guitar wails and wrestles; bonding with percussion; the track- which is a largely-instrumental number- mutates and evolves. Little scratches and samples are laced; an aching vocal- that is wordless and ethereal. With touches of Pink Floyd- parts of Dark Side of the Moon (The Great Gig in the Sky and Brain Damage especially) and Wish You Were Here– and the Oxford legends, it is an enthralling and wondrous combination. Native vocal elements- that sound European and Arabic in its projection and sound- sit with insistent and sky-scarping percussion. The track reaches the heavens; it pushes and presses- never releasing its grasp. The vocal reaches a crystalline and impossible high- a glass-breaking pitch; it certainly leaves its mark. A sensational and memorable opening- Sintra sets the scene and lays out intentions with a staggering amount of confidence.
Jim Beam is a different affair from the very start. More sprite and racing, the booming percussion works alongside righteous strings; that dance and run- the combination goes beyond expectations of Alternative and Folk music- and proves the opening track was no fluke or anomaly. Whereas the opener was a heartfelt ode to a Portuguese paradise; hear you get vision of a Kentucky whiskey- and all the head-spinning; body-nourishing benefits it offers. An elixir to some; a numbing agent to others- and to many more, a great-tasting drink- the composition tumbles and staggers; it reaches and grabs. Our hero steps to the mic. and recalls “Another missed call”- who it is from we can only speculate (to this point). With his stomach knotted, there are tangible nerves and palpable. Whether a music opportunity; a call from his girlfriend- you get a sense of the importance and urgency. Being swept along with the composition, Haynes’ voice is rich and emotive; deep and thoughtful. A comforting knot; sites under a sycamore: early words and scenes are poetic and personal; original and imaginative- going beyond what you expect from the clan of wannabe singer-songwriters. We get reference to cheap whiskey- the song’s title character- as our hero recalls a loved/missed figure; if they she (I am guessing it is a ‘she’) were in a parallel universe- she’d be here making fun of men in “cheap suits”. Our man doesn’t want to ask what it is that “makes you cry”- there is mystery and intrigue in these words; your head is dizzied from the lyrical flow; the passion that is projected. Uplifting and spirited, the song never drops its pace- only aided by a gorgeous and spectral female backing vocal. From the flat by the shop- where the two first made love- it seems things have changed; maybe the relationship has broken down- the regret is evident. Whereas your Sheeran would go for dope-smoking-D.V.D.-watching-late-night-chatting banality; Haynes is a more cultured and intelligent writer- ensuring the song goes beyond the ordinary; reaching transcendent levels. Like Ben Howard- whose sophomore album was big on atmospheric compositions and huge anthems- here we get one of our own. The guitars and percussion explode; the vocals weave and call-out- it is an instant and hugely memorable track.
After a blistering 1-2- where the listener has been exhausted and dehydrated- there is little time for resolve and relax. Heathen‘ Early electronics jump and syncopate- whether guitar or computer-based- and stand out alone. A bold and slinking start, there is sensuousness and smoothness- as our hero’s voice comes in. Romance and loyalty are presented once more- with a composition that is barer and less pressing than previous numbers- as our man is leaving; not wanting to be forgotten. Unable to stay here- and backed by female vocals; given a more realistic evocation of the song’s messages- his voice is cracked and whiskey-soaked; the troubadour is hitting the road- running from the situation. A teasing Blues lick is unfurled: mixing Blues-Rock swagger (a comingling of Jack White and Pretzel Logic-era Steely Dan) it is another unpredictable and wonderful track. Cleaner (with a better demeanor) than Charlie Sheen- a little Rap-influenced vocal trip; undertones of Sheeran’s vibe- Haynes remains determined and soul-baring. Stepping into the spotlight- and ensuring the words are given strength and fire- the electric guitar snakes and funks. Joining the fray we get some brass beauty: giving the song a Jazz-tinged edge, the emotion levels increase- our man is a heathen when he plays. Reaching fever-pitch, Haynes’ voice is a rhapsody of fire and belief; a howling execration of loyalty and love- a rapturous howl. Another superb song, the pace has been relentless and impassioned- leaving the listener breathless at every turn.
Bringing some relief into the mix, Haynes unveils something gentler on Note– and harks back to his earlier work. Pastoral and finger-picking- you get hints of Nick Drake and Neil Young- the track is a calming and sun-seeking beauty. After the infant moments; the serene and tender notes, the song starts to accelerate and speed-up- and beckon-in tales of a twisted town. Subjects of families intertwine; inbred faces stand next to one another- a consequence of its time. I am unsure which town is being referenced- whether fictional or based on rather unpleasant memories- yet Haynes’ voice is commanding and focused. Regardless of the “path on which they lay”; unwise plans come to fruition- half of my mind was in a medieval colony; the other in a modern-day dwelling. The wording and choicer and language (by Haynes) is such that it has historical edges; literature vibes- intelligent and quirky; it paints pictures and vivid possibilities. Soldiers, beggars and sailors come to “surround us”- leading my mind to the shores of historical documentation- as the vocals rise and unite (between Haynes and his female cohort). There is a storybook/fairy-tale blend- granted, with grittiness and heartache- that is charming and unexpected. Queens overlook bridges; the townsfolk surround the hero- there is that sense of suffocation and dread. Admits the bygone and historical testimonies, the composition remains modern and fierce (I think any Elizabethan pipes and sensations would tip the song into parody territory). The electric guitar yowls and is razor-sharp; the percussion is guiding and potent- although less pummeling and primal than previous cuts. Our hero unveils a song that is sincere and different- there is no sense of joke or oddity- and gives Life in Animation a new layer and shade. There is almost a Grunge-like sensibility as the song reaches its peak: the guitar is animalistic and head-nodding; the vocals wracked and pained. Experimental and progressive- bringing images of Pink Floyd to mind- the song comes down to land; resting with a more calming outro. Gorgeous and pastoral, the closing strings bring the curtain down: it ends the story and beckons in the night- a perfect end to the E.P.’s most adventurous and interchangeable song.
Closing proceedings is Little Spots. Given what has come before, you wonder how the song will begin. Cosmic and vacuum-like, the opening electric notes give you some insight: with the urgency and drama of early songs- taking the E.P. back into heavier realms- it is another evocative and space-age opening. Our hero is lost for words; unable to speak, it seems he is sick and tired- of this “constant moving around”. Again there are Grunge-influenced undertones- the male-female vocal bonding reminds me of Pixies- settling with acoustic and Alternative skin. The E.P.’s most insular and personal numbers- we are looking at Haynes and his fears as opposed to love and city-worship- it is a fitting swansong. Whether geographical or dreamt; our hero has found a spot to stand his ground- there may be some stability and focus coming into proceedings. Once tormented and angered; now there is some hope and comfort- a little spot he can call home. As I listen to the song, I look at the E.P.’s cover- our hero with back against the wall; headphones around his neck- looking dreamily into camera (as an animated representation). Little Spots seems like a man with his back against the wall; turning away from a sweetheart/girl- finding comfort in something different and new. Here is another rich and multi-part composition. There are horn blasts and piano notes; rolling percussion and wave-crash electric guitar. In terms of the vocal, Haynes delivers Rap-like spits; tumbles his words out- as chills and spills come up his skull; the world seems “dull to me”. Quotable and sing-along, it is likely to be a live favourite: something that will have crowds singing its mandates. Our hero cannot waste his time (on his girl); he is moving on. One of the most intelligent compositions, the percussion goes to a pitter-patter: each instrument adapts to the lyrics; never remains static and uninspired. Letting electric guitar come up-front- as we witnessed on the previous track- it provides a chance to breathe and reflect. As the song comes to an end, our hero reads between the lines; has his mind made up- and brings the E.P. to a thought-provoking and conclusive close.
I went into reviewing the E.P. – and my main feature, Masquerading Time, with zero expectations. Having been brought to Haynes’ attention by a mutual Facebook friend (Melinda Ortner); I sat and thought: maybe there will be a few good tracks; I will come away pleasantly surprised. Having dived into Life in Animation I have come away several pounds lighter- having sweater with joy and disbelief. My expectations and conceptions of the male solo arena is enforced by mainstream limitations- the you-know-who-artists that offer little beyond vanilla and beige banality. I have been hearing some exceptional female-led solo work, yet little wonder from the guys- that is, until now. Haynes amazed me from the first notes. The E.P. is concise and tight- the track order and running times are perfect; each track is in the exact right place- and allows the young artist to really flourish. Most E.P.s tend to falter and doze-off towards the final numbers: here there is a distinct consistency; no track even dips beneath the high standard of the opener. From the beginning epic; through to the closer’s anger and travelogue ambitions- so much of the spectrum is laid-out. Most young artists sound nervous in their early stages: Haynes is one of the most assured and confident artists around. The production is exceptional and crisp throughout; the instrumentation is stunning and hugely powerful- all supporting that staggering and stand-out vocal. I am not often left speechless after hearing an E.P./song, but Haynes is got bloody close. New to my ears as recently as two days ago, I am not resolved to watch his career- a young talent with a definite future. Critics and reviewers bemoan the swell of sound-alike and insipid solo acts- I am right in there with them to be fair- but with Haynes on the charge, there is cause for hope. Having laid-out one of my favourite E.P.s of this year, I recommend everyone to seek it out; get on board and discover something…
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