There is often a negative stigma attached to multi-part albums resulting from artists that are not able to discern between the tracks that belong on an album, and those that should be left on the mixing room floor. Add to it the minor detail that your debut album is going to be a two-part product and there is more than enough cause for concern. Melbourne, Australia’s Hayden Calnin faced this dilemma earlier this year when he announced the arrival of the Cut Love series.
Part one dropped a couple months ago. While darker and more folk-like in tonal colour, it demonstrated that Calnin knows how to structure a beautiful sonic story. Cut Love Pt. 2 demonstrates an equally and beautifully cohesive story as it employs a brighter and far more pop-like tonal colour reminiscent of France’s M83.
The album takes shape with “Caution Cares,” which is a poppy realization of resolution. In an indie Americana film, this track would represent the final few scenes where, for better or for worse, our leading man has come out knowing he is a changed man. There is an ambient interlude full of little noises that offer a few moments to reflect on the events leading up to the moment followed by a crescendo into the ending. The entire song feels like a scene where the sun rises from behind the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles, bathing our leading man, who is watching from the hood of his car parked atop the Hollywood Hills.
If “Caution Cares” feels like the ending at the beginning, then “White Night,” is the flashback to the start of the conflict. The long available single is an acid trip of deep melancholy and conflict. It still holds up as the best example of Calnin’s vocal abilities and lyrical prowess. Listen to the lines, “and I’m waiting for the light to bathe me /And I’m waiting for the pain to phase me / And I’m drinking like it’s Drew-boys birthday / And I’m stoned off those pills you gave me / And now I’m living on the edge of the city / Taking girls home that I think are pretty / I’m not good at being alone, / I’m not good at being alone,” It’s a truly vivid image of the conflict involved in the song.
While it still holds up as the best example of Calnin’s lyrical gift, it has some stiff competition. “You,” has an observational flair for lyrical content that Calnin fist displayed in his debut 2012 EP City. The lyrical contrast found on “It’s Overcrowded Here,” which is best summarized thorough the lines, “you change into your summer dress / While I put on my winter mess” is enduring as well.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the album, is a cover of the infamous twelve-bar blues song “Hound Dog.” The key to a good cover is in finding a way to incorporate your own unique style, while not straying too far from the original artist’s style. Many have attempted to do that with “Hound Dog” since its release in 1953. To this day, the most notable cover of the song is the version made famous by the King of Rock in the summer of 1956. Calnin’s cover manages to stand on its own by adding just the right amount of modulation and field recordings, to balance it with the singer’s wistful high-pitched vocals.
If you recall the review of Cut Love Pt. 1, one of the highlights of the album was the feeling of coming full circle. The intro was full of life and wisdom, whereas by contrast, a full of silence and nothingness outro. Cut Love Pt. 2 closes with “Park Beers,” bringing us back to the scene where our main character is atop his car in a park, overlooking Downtown L.A. The sun is shining full force and Calnin finds resolution proclaiming “And all I could ever do is say goodbye for now for now for now for now/ I don’t need you/ I don’t need you here at all / At all.” Our main character has weathered the storm and is smiling. There is no question that he has come out better. The use of brass in the final chorus as it hammers home the feeling of strength and personal understanding is outstanding.
Like the protagonist, there is no question that Hayden Calnin has come out from Cut Love Pt. 1 and 2 better than ever. There are no tracks undeserving of their spot on either album. Calnin has written a story that is one part a Bon Iver thought experiment, and another part an M83 ambient Americana soundtrack. Combine the two and you the rise of a young musician who has found his sound. Even covering Elvis Presley, Calnin owns the music and sounds absolutely sure.
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