Prolific British singer/songwriter Darren Hayman delivers a politicized set of warm, melancholic folk-pop on his 11th solo release, Chants for Socialists. The album's ten tracks feature lyrics adapted from a political pamphlet of the same name by 19th century writer, artist, and social activist William Morris. Hayman chanced upon this document one day while visiting the William Morris Gallery near his home and was taken by the bold, decisive nature of the work, which featured a set of political chants meant to be set to the popular tunes of the day. Hayman's love of socially engaged music dates back to the 1980s when, as a young musician, he was inspired by the work of Billy Bragg and the artists of the Red Wedge musical collective. He set to work with a group of collaborators melding his own brand of thoughtful indie pop with new 21st century adaptations of Morris' lyrics, running the recording sessions himself and working with local choirs to create an engaging sound that relies more on historical storytelling than soapboxing. Chants for Socialists' soothing tones and inspired arrangements feel similar to the quiet celebrations of King Creosote's 2014 pseudo-historical work From Scotland with Love rather than with Bragg's left-wing rallying cries. Hayman's brand of pop has always been on the intellectual side and the archival nature of these Morris texts dovetails well with the kind of music he's been making in the years leading up to this fine release.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger