Among the vast scene of acoustic folk that’s been part of the indiepop world for many years now, Manchester’s Laurie Hulme is one of the most interesting and original artists – by virtue of his music writing but also by virtue of the subjects his songs revolve around. His 2016 debut was inspired by stories of (and hence a tribute to) his late grandfather. This gave the album its title and it also provided the band name he’s been using since, Songs For Walter.
Hulme is back now with a second LP called An Endless Summer Daze. Musically, it is not so much a departure from the debut but instead the consistent development of Hulme’s own sound. Predominantly acoustic arrangements, at times supported by strings, nuanced, utterly idiosyncratic harmonies paired with Hulme’s seraphic voice define the record, but they don’t make for a sweet and delicate listening – there is always an undertone of something darker, threatening, whether in the form of an unexpected change from major to minor or an ostinate, distant, menacing bass drum carrying the less than cheerful mood of the songs. Conveniently thrown in at the right places are the exceptions of three more straightforward and band-driven songs: „Squaring Circles“ (a jangle pop tune about the increasingly maddening pressure on employees in late capitalism), „New Beginning“ (a brilliant celebration of the eternal loser’s resilience that mixes traces of Phil Spector and Marc Bolan into a very laid-back cocktail), and the album’s closing title, „Stranger“, a dark pop hymn that evokes the anthemic qualities of bands like Los Campesinos! or even Arcade Fire.
Lyrically, the 10 songs that were recorded over a period of more than two years take a less personal, one is even inclined to say: more political stance, although there is much more to Hulme’s lyrics than what is usually associated with that label. Rather than a protest singer, the songs on An Endless Summer Daze reveal a songwriter with an eye for the very concrete, tiny little everyday complexities and weirdnesses we get and find ourselves in. While the opening track „Earwigging“ sarcastically explores the comforting potential of the total surveillance that we are subjected to, „Alien“ takes a look at the insignificant night sky through the eyes of a believing UFO seeker, waiting for someone to give him a sign.
An Endless Summer Daze is a record that for all its tender arrangements and melodic shine isn’t really suited to be playing as background music to anything. This is an album that wants to be listened to carefully. It rewards listeners with a very special kind of sophisticated, ambitious entertainment.
An Endless Summer Daze was released in September 2018 on Tallbird Records: