The immense globalization of music has inarguably damaged the traditional music industry. Yet it has also built an entirely new forum that resides upon the web and gives opportunity to artists who know how to properly navigate the deep reaches of the web.
Melbourne’s Hayden Calnin is one of those artists. Despite being in one of the most isolated countries on the planet, there are several reasons Calnin has succeeded in getting his music into headphones everywhere. He has managed to do this by having songs featured on North American television, features and chats on blogs and zines across Europe, and a genuine knack for communicating with fans across the globe on various social media outlets, (he responds on Facebook in mere minutes.)
Cut Love Pt 1 is Calnin’s official entrance into the full-length album business. Its dream-like (at times) nightmarish instrumentation combined with Calnin’s self-depreciating lyrics, falsetto, and use of autotune are inevitably going to draw comparisons to Bon Iver. However, Calnin’s album stands out as an extremely well written narrative of loneliness, desire, self-loathing and ultimately nothingness. Something only the man who graced the web with songs such as “White Night” and “For My Help” could deliver.
The album’s focus on nothingness, loneliness and desire for more, are effectively set up early with “Introduction; Nothingness”, which uses a recording of a famous lecture from British-American philosopher Alan Watts. The lecture is accompanied by the sounds of an individual on a meditative walk, giving us a main character lost in feelings and vulnerable to the nothingness heard in the background. The lecturer’s statement “liveliness is change…it’s motion. You see you’re always at the place where you always are.”, is rather crucial in perfectly setting up the subject matter of loneliness, loss, change, and new beginnings.
“Cut Love”, the album’s title track feels like an M83 track and could be the perfect accompaniment to the scenes of a film commercial. Sadly with it’s indecipherable lyrics and a runtime that drones on and on for nearly eight minutes, it is undoubtedly the weakest track on the album. However, displeasure is short lived; when “Sorry for Us,’” kicks in, all previous sins are forgiven. Brooding bass and drums conjure up a terrible nightmare as Calnin paints the cerebral landscape with words of utter loneliness and failure. The opening lines, “She left the light on and the devotion”, clearly describes how our main character was abandoned. Into the chorus, our ill-fated lover expresses his feelings of guilt and sorrow as Calnin wails, “Sorry for the wall we’re falling through… Sorry for us, you were sorry with me.” The use of repetition that follows in the chorus is a fantastic narrative tool for the war happening back and forth between the main character and his partner. “Sorry for Us,” displays Calnin’s best writing and tightest musical composition since the days of his true debut on City.
That loneliness guilt builds into numbness through the rest of the first half of the album comes to a reprieve or a pardon of sorts in “Launch.” Dialogue from the launch of American rocket Delta II, and dreamy droning of an electric organ, make the intermission feel like a space opera. When Calnin enters the song with the words, “picked up where I left… where I left you,” it is evident that this launch is a new beginning. “Launch” is an optimistic song about finding love again and yet there are notes of sadness as Calnin speaks of several depreciating features seen through a set of “demon eyes.” This idea plays right into the subject matter of Watts’s reminder that you can’t have happiness without sadness, reinforcing the album’s focus.
Any sense of a new beginning is quickly swept under the rug though. “We are Stars & Spheres” finds its message relating to a main character caught in a vast emptiness and plagued by the idea that a love interest is feeling just as alone. The twinkle of electronics, autotune and use of the repetitive narrative tool actively portray the reentrance of nothingness and sets up the final act of Cut Love Pt. 1.
“So Nice to Meet Ya,” is the long awaited connection between the main character and his love interest. It is the resolution we’ve all been pulling for… or is it? There is no happy ending as Calnin sullenly propounds, “so nice to meet you, now I’ll leave it here.” The story closes with “You Believed”, which sees the main character slip back into loneliness and nothingness, only this time with clarity as made evident by the use of crystal clear acoustic guitar and vocals free of modulation. Turns out the love interest believed in the relationship and the main character has turned her away despite wanting only to make her believe in him.
With the arrival of “Outro; Shopping Trolley”, the flashbacks end, and we are brought back to the present as our main character walks to the background noises of cars, voices and shopping carts. These sounds end the story. Or at least until part two arrives in May.
Cut Love Pt. 1 is a solid debut for a young musician who has spent the past few years convincing his ever-growing number of followers that he is worth the attention. The sad story Calnin has crafted within these songs is one that is sure to charm. I am only hoping that part two finds a slightly happier tone to it. After all, in his lecture Watts did pronounce that we will get those things we see, like, and love, but we maintain hope that we don’t go too far and lose what we already have. At this point, it would be nice to see our main character find love, yet there is the fear he may lose more come May.
Luke Williams grew up a fan of punk and pop punk in a field of cows just outside of Barrie, Ontario. You can follow him on Twitter @musicwithluke