Best known as the singer-songwriter of the phenomenally successful and much-loved Hefner, Darren Hayman is now six albums into an increasingly idiosyncratic and remarkably productive solo career. Following massive critical acclaim for last year’s Essex Arms album Hayman followed up with his January Songs project, writing a song a day for the entire month. There’s been no let up since either with Hayman just releasing a brand new solo album of subtle, drifting piano ballads called The Ship’s Piano, written following a fractured skull left him wanting to make quieter, more peaceful music. The album has already received rave reviews from the BBC “uniquely intimate and very satisfying” to Q “It's galling that Hayman can churn out such high quality so often” and Mojo “Hayman has hit a creative purple patch… a treat”.
'I Taught You How To Dance' is the stand out track from The Ship’s Piano, a beautiful, sweet and non-ironic love song. Darren describes it as his cruise ship song, a song suitable for weddings and 1980s teenage discos, like 'Red, Red Wine.' Expertly embellished by Steve Pretty’s mournful trumpet, the song sounds even better when played with a glitter ball in the room.
The ten inch EP also contains covers of 'Come Dancing' by the Kinks, 'I Don't Wanna Dance' by Eddy Grant and 'Dance Away' by Roxy Music. Asked why he chose these particular songs Darren replied, “These are the tunes that would drift over my school playground from the 6th formers' social club. It's hard to imagine how cool and exotic these songs sounded to me as a 13 year old. 'Come Dancing' in particular is a much sadder intelligent song than it appears on first inspection. The truth is that songs that are good to dance to, don't have the word 'dance' in the title. Songs that have the word 'dance' in the title are usually heartbreakers.” Listen out for Nik Vestberg of Moustache Of Insanity playing Gameboy on Come Dancing!
This is the delightful highlight from the recent delicate long player The Ship's Piano. A gently swaying ballad, delivered with Hayman's trademark wit and tenderness, it would be the ultimate Our Song in a parallel universe where a fake tanned Simon Bates has been replaced by a spindly hollow cheeked geek in a Cinerama T-shirt. And we as a nation would coo and sigh approvingly.
It pees from a great height on the next two selections, mind. Clearly Darren, bless him, wanted a dance titled theme to this EP. That can be the only excuse for his rather bizarre covers of Roxy Music's Dance Away and Eddy Grant's I Don't Wanna Dance. And I pray to my own personal God (David Silva, since you ask) that I never ever have to hear either of those subdued wonky takes again.
However, it's not for nothing that Mr Hayman has been labelled the indiepop Ray Davies because in his mitts the Kinks' Come Dancing sounds even more bitter and resentful than the original, and accompanied by Nik Verstberg on a Gameboy (er, yes, a Gameboy), it would have sat gloriously alongside the other gems on his two recent Essex themed albums.
Usual top quality cover too!
About once a month I get an email about a.n.other indie band who are OH MY GOD going to release A SINGLE FOR EVERY WEEK OF THE YEAR because this is DEFINITELY INTERESTING and would almost never provoke a person to say BUT HAVE YOU ACTUALLY GOT 52 AMAZING SINGLES or are you JUST OVER-EXCITED ABOUT BEING ABOUT TO WRITE ‘A SINGLE FOR EVERY WEEK OF THE YEAR!!!’ IN YOUR PRESS RELEASE because might I say HAVING LISTENED TO TEN OF YOUR EFFORTS, THAT IS MY (respectful) GUESS. Darren Hayman is not one of these people, and it is sort of disgusting how frequently he strikes the centre of the board without even sneaking his feet over the oche while everyone sips their ale or tries to chat up the barmaid. ‘I Taught You How To Dance’ is another finely-painted miniature which makes you wonder if Hayman is drowning in melancholy observation like it were a lead duvet. I hope not.
(Drowned In Sound)