Richard Hawley

Further

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Richard Hawley's eighth album is his first not to be associated with some geographical entity in his Muse-like town of Sheffield. While 2012's Standing at the Sky's Edge was a sharp turn toward hard-rocking psychedelia (that ended up inspiring a stage musical), 2015's Hollow Meadows returned to the root sounds he explored on early records such as Lowedges. In 2018, he delivered a collection of songs that made up most of the score and soundtrack for the hit film Funny Cow and netted a solid single in "I Still Want You" with Corrine Bailey Rae. While Further opens with the guitar-feedback squall of "Off My Mind," which splits its time between Heliocentric-era Paul Weller and Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath," it's almost an outlier on this short 36-minute set, though the foreboding paranoid psychedelia of "Alone" and the snarling folk tale of homecoming, betrayal, and villainy in "Galley Girl" follow closely.

In "My Little Treasures," the set's third track, Hawley delves deep into what he does best: mixing intimate, tender, observant tomes that juxtapose emotional states and relationships with locales using gorgeous production techniques including jangly guitars, subtle keyboard shadings, strings, and poetic lyrics like "Cold beer in warm places/Whiskey glass storm chasers, look at all these stars/How did we ever get from there to hereā€¦" The title track is a lovely tune that sits comfortably in the tensions between folk and a sophisticated, MGM-era Roy Orbison-esque pop tune. In each of these numbers, Hawley's guitars find a place to underscore his lyrics and frame them in a context unmistakably his own. They scream again in string-laden drama of "Is There a Pill," while "Time Is" walks the tightrope between rockabilly, blues, and British Isles folk, with a screaming harmonica (thanks to Clive Mellor) just atop its clattering snare and kick drum rhythm and strummed acoustic and electric guitars. "Emilina Says" is the most beautiful song here, a lush, tender waltz narrating devastating heartbreak and longing. (This song would have been right at home on Coles Corner with a different chart.) "Midnight Train" touches on the country end of pub rock and Mickey Newbury's pop-psych proto-Americana. It closes with the lushly panoramic "Doors," that shuffles along a brushed snare and reverbed, dreamy Byrds-esque 12-string electric guitars, wafting strings, and a vocal croon as tender as anything on Lady's Bridge or Coles Corner. Further is the album that underscores everything Hawley's done previously. Mixing a sophisticated amalgam of melody, sound, and poetic lyrics, Hawley's artistry lies in his ability to communicate a deeper vulnerability that openly engages hard questions about identity, and the often overlooked yet profound benefits of romantic love.

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