BY BEN WHITTINGTON
The Hale & Hearty will not change your life, but it will make you happy for a while, and maybe that’s enough. The playfulness in Heyward Howkins’ songs is a real joy to hear. Instead of operating with a chart-pleasing mechanical beat, they cascade like drops of rain on a window pane, seamlessly flowing from one part to the next. Combined with some great impressionist lyrics, like : “When the prize is a frown/ that could white out the town,” the songs dance around the listener, throwing shapes and painting vivid pictures of sleepy Americana.
Unfortunately, over the course of an album, a main strength can also become a weakness. The lack of a clearly discernible structure makes it difficult to tell where one song ends and another begins. Whilst the album would beautifully accompany a scenic drive, the songs themselves don’t stand alone as complete pieces. Without a strong melodic hook, most of the songs don’t have the power to individually, or memorably, catch the listener’s attention. The overall effect is an album that passes by very pleasantly, but does not encourage an active listen and subsequently the listener does not tend to notice, or miss it, when it has finished.
Having said that, Heyward Howkins is good at what he does and the album reflects that. As an album to accompany quiet drinks on a Wednesday evening, or a November walk through the city at 3am, it is perfect. Sometimes an album isn’t about hits or catchy hooks, but about providing a uniquely personal 40 minute experience. The Hale & Hearty is not groundbreaking, nor will it have you singing along, but it will keep you excellent company on a lonely night.