This Modern Hope
The Storm is available via:
Alternative-Rock; Indie; Art-Rock;
THERE are not many musicians that can…
come from a well-respected, established band; see it dissipate and then re-launch themselves as an impressive solo artist. I shall come to my featured artist This Modern Hope but is worth addressing that first point; looking at the art of blending moods/genres; a bit about the understated value of intricacy and beauty in music – and how hard it can be with regards originality and effectiveness. I have mentioned before, but I’ve seen too many great bands consigned to the musical scrapheap. Whether affected by inter-band tensions or a natural end: it is always heartbreaking seeing it happen. In the mainstream, The Maccabees recently called time: one of the most promising and interesting bands Britain has produced the last few years. I guess music is challenging and unpredictable, and hopefully, This Modern Hope’s Rob Payne won’t mind the discussion, but one is curious what causes bands/acts to crumble – maybe finding ways to avoid it perhaps. In the modern climate, there are more and more musicians coming through by the week. The accessibility and easy, D.I.Y. approach to music have made it easier and more cost-effective to produce your own songs. To this extent, the existing artists about are having to work harder and getting less attention. The music industry should be open-doored and impose no borderers and checks: if we discourage artists and people coming in then we are likely to lose a lot of talent and wonderful music. I just fear some bands, who have high hopes and look set to go the distance, are needlessly struggling and having to think of a Plan B. If you expand this theory out; you see a lot of venues and clubs closing too. Even in London, with the money and opportunities available, there is little security and assurances. Maybe it is the way of the world but I’d like to think we see fewer great acts (and music venues) going under for very little reason. If your members are fighting beyond the point of repair or you lose that passion, then that is fair enough. I know, from speaking with former bands, it is issues like finance, gig availability and lack of promotion that is causing them to split. In this time, there seems little excuse for not promoting bands: social media is easy to use and designed for that sort of thing. Perhaps the smaller towns provide few platforms for new musicians but the larger cities should be well-stocked and set-up to accommodate the rising demand. It is, as with many rants/issues I provoke, perhaps best discussed in future. I mention this opening topic because This Modern Hope’s Rob Payne was former member of the band The Bedroom Hour.
That band was hugely praised and respected because of their widescreen songs and wonderfully rich tapestries. A cross of Elbow-cum-Doves Art-Rock and dreamy, cinematic swathes: their break-up sent shock-waves among their fans and some media avenues. Out of the dust of The Bedroom Hour came Rob Payne’s This Modern Hope. Before I carry on; it is time we are introduced to the aforementioned venture:
“This Modern Hope, the new solo project from West London musician and producer Rob Payne, is ready for take-off and poised for success. Drawing on influences such as Death Cab For Cutie, Doves and his brother's record collection, This Modern Hope's sound is classic yet fresh, switching seamlessly from up-tempo, driving rock to stirring ballads, Rob's soulful voice floating effortlessly over the melodies as the beats flow. Lyrically deep and with a heady vocal intricacy, the songs come straight from the heart and leave a lasting impression that words can't describe. With a strong musical pedigree, masses of talent and a little help from some friends, This Modern Hope's tunes are ready to be heard”.
I will not theorise why The Bedroom Hour are no more (we will just mourn their passing) but instead celebrate the success and rise of This Modern Hope. I know, from following the social media feed of Payne, there was some doubts whether new music would be made and whether he’d be able to rekindle that passion. What strikes me about This Modern Hope, and some of the best artists out there is the seamless ability to blend genres (often disparate) and make it sound natural and entrancing. It is quite a risky venture with regards cross-pollinating and it can often be a failed venture. So many artists, in a bid to sound original and fresh, put wide-ranging moods/genres together in a hope it will just hang together. It takes a very special artist to be able to do that so caution should be exercised. One of the most commendable facets of music is when someone can take dreamy, sea-swimming gracefulness and unify that to a harder, more driving element – and create something new and hugely atmospheric. This Modern Hope, while retaining a touch of Elbow and Doves in the mix, conjure something enticing and vivid; symphonic and rousing. Payne’s experience with The Bedroom Hour has prepared him for This Modern Hope: if anything, his new project is even more impressive and commendable. With the help of friends and that determined, singular vision: he can lace reflection inside joy and a light under an ocean of shadows. I hear a lot of promising and hungry Rock acts but feel they do not possess relevant variation and malleability. This Modern Hope shows how things should be done. You get bristling, electric strings but within, there are subtle shades and emotional elements – a much richer and broad palette at work.
Those who see the words ‘beauty’ and ‘passion’ in music will have a few reactions. They may see those words as tropes and overused terminology. Others might have clear views of what they can expect; others will bridle and assume something saccharine, treacly and unappetising. There are musicians that aim for something emotive, spine-tingling and blood-rushing and come up hopelessly short. What This Modern Hope does, and other like-minded colleagues do, is parabond accessibility with rarified. You get appealing, stays-in-the-brain lines but with it, something delicate and balletic – hard to define and very special. Beauty and romance in music is portrayed in all manner of ways and can, depending on the artist, be a success of failure. I am a huge fan of instant, raw songs but always love being washed away by something evocative and poised. This Modern Hope’s urbane, opulent and captivating songs take you to far-off lands are across oceans; they deal with everyday emotions and inner-reflection. Payne is showing how consistent and variegated he is as a writer and musician: let’s hope this productivity and creativity continues for many years. After adapting to a life sans bandmates: the solo endeavor creates its own struggles and obstacles. A lonelier, more autonomous way of existence: This Modern Hope has ridden the waves and shown immense fortitude and ambition. The Storm, having been out for a little while now, proves what a true and unique musician Payne is.
This Modern Hope’s music has always been built on a foundation of beauty and building emotion. If one looks back at The Abyss. Released late last year: the song was one of the very first offerings from This Modern Hope. Squalling, rain-lashed guitars opened it and the driving percussion gave it a definite urgency. The vocal has pain and anxiety but there is a luscious, romantic quality to it. It (the abyss) is here for our hero and there seems to be that air of expectation and acceptance. One hopes, throughout all the song, that there will be redemption and hope – maybe a romance or chink of light that will pull him back. Friends and allies are gone and it is n uncertain and dramatic mood being painted: you get moved by the power of the song and everything going on. Guitar flecks, sparkles and elicits diamonds of fire and a raw, Blues-like quality. Percussion keeps steady and ensures the song has a solid backbone and sense of consistency; different lines, elements, and interactions work around the two – such an evocative and vivid creation. I pictured an empty city and our man walking the streets in search of comfort and answers; ravaged and hit by the conditions and weather – such a bracing and head-spinning song. Few artists come in that confidently and compelling but, with the previous experience under his belt, it is maybe not too unexpected to hear such authority from This Modern Hope.
Ship on the Ocean, like its sister tracks, has that trademark echo and low-fade intrigue from the early stages. Graceful, soulful pianos and subtle electronics fuse to give the song an early gravitas and quality. You instantly go to the ocean and picture a lone vessel traversing the waves. The guitars whip up and skip along with a definite jauntiness – never too racing or aimless; always keeping perspective and balance. More positive and open than The Abyss: it shows a new side to This Modern Hope and takes the listener in a different direction. Embroiled with so many emotions and possibilities: it is hard not to be engaged with the composition and start to envisage various outcomes and scenarios. Away from the ship-based storyline; our hero’s professions of youthful indiscretion change perception. Opening his mouth and saying words with little consideration for recourse and consequence – perhaps a rebel or someone who was not as caring as one would hope. Payne’s has an element of Guy Garvey and you detect Elbow’s frontman in his dramatic and burr; a little bit of Noel Gallagher too. Our hero is a ship on the ocean and seeking stability and reliability. It seems, the song’s subject/heroine, is the only one he can rely on. Perhaps speaking to a sweetheart or a good friend: it appears many have abandoned our man and left him feeling jaded and scarred. Elongated his words and putting so much potency and power into the delivery – one of the most affecting and emotive songs from This Modern Hope. It is a different direction from The Abyss but still has some pain and loneliness at its core. Ship on the Ocean, like other songs in This Modern Hope’s cannon, possesses an exceptional composition and so much going on. With strings, electronics, and percussion; it is almost a film-like presentation: sweeping, haunting and lustful in equal measures.
The Storm progresses from previous songs and is the most confident and stunning creation from This Modern Hope. All the usual components and dynamics are in place – the sweeping composition and assured, soulful vocals – but there is that tiny lift in quality; all the elements are more focused and glistening – the overall effect more profound and nuanced. Like previous numbers: there is that weather-beaten, emotion-drained centre with semi-symphonic composition – ensuring existing fans find familiarity and consistency. For any new followers: so much to discover and a wonderful song in its own right. Let’s hope The Storm leads to more creativity from Payne’s This Modern Hope and an E.P. or album. I could easily see an L.P. emerge and a 10/11-track collection of songs from the London musician. It seems like This Modern Hope has plenty of ideas and motivation and it will be exciting to see what the next few months hold in store. With inspiration bands like Elbow, Doves and Death Cab for Cutie either inactive or on hiatus: there is a definite gap in the market for the kind of music This Modern Hope is putting out there. I notice a vacuum and need for something that provides chills and shivers but gives the soul and heart nourishment and tenderness.
A sentiment of breeze and storm opens the song and is subtle and building. Almost too slight to hear: the song begins to grow and expand as the guitars raise and campaign. Almost like the rain starting to pour down: the strings are never too heavy or fast but have a definite strength and impact to them. Like early songs from This Modern Hope: the vocal never comes in too quickly; apt for the composition to work and create imagery – always compelling but never giving too much away too soon. You become involved and fascinated by the song right from the start and wonder where it is going to lead us. The guitar has subtleness and melody but there is an aching, yearning quality to them. Many songs go in hard and feel the need to throw weight and heaviness in; the hope the listener will be braced and strong-armed into liking a song. This Modern Hope shows more consideration and allow songs to speak for themselves and gentle make their way into the consciousness. The storm has “already begun” and they have to move. Whether talking about a lover or friends trapped by the incoming threat: there is a definite tension and urgency right away. One listens and wonders whether it is as simple and clear-cut as first imagined. Maybe there is a literal storm or maybe it is a metaphor for something else. Perhaps an argument or change of culture; a desire or harsh situation: your mind will think of various possibilities and what is being attested. Payne’s vocal is backed by a sturdy and thumping beat that presents footsteps, rush, and wind; the guitars fade slightly but still keep keen, sharp and imperious. Our hero is a pastor and leader who is giving advice to the people and preparing them for the imminent storm. Hide behind the tables and brace yourself for what is to come. Again, I was thinking about something other than a literal storm and took my imagination elsewhere. That is the beauty and power of any great song: it gets you thinking beyond the literal and conspiring. Payne’s tremulous, firm voice brings the words to life and gives them so much decorum and sobriety. Never rushing or needlessly overpowering; always restrained and mature – it ensures the lyrics are clear to understand and are giving the maximum amount of respect and consideration.
Knowing “we can’t go back” and the situation is too fraught and dangerous: you cast yourself in the song and are affected by its physicality, grandeur, and evocativeness. Almost accepting that life will change and there is no real way to remain, Payne’s vocal is solid but there is weariness to it. Nobody can deny the atmosphere and conviction of The Storm. It is not a song that sits back and lets the listener do all the leg work when it comes to imagining and connecting the dots. Despite the level and typical Payne vocal prowess; here, there is plenty of fresh determination, power, and depth. One of the staples of This Modern Hope is the intricacies, vocal nuance, and layers to that instrument. Payne does not simply replicate what he has done across previous singles, but instead, provides one of his most compelling and affecting performances yet. Just as you become too invested in the lyrics, the composition steps in and provides movement and development in the story. From the desperation and warnings that have been provided; you know have a break where the strings and percussion step in. The sound of the building mood and what is to come: it is a blend of nerviness and strange calm; an underlying uncertainty for sure. It is a short parable but one that bridges the verses perfectly. Never outstaying its welcome or being too concise: you are afforded the chance to direct the story and dictate where the song is headed. When Payne comes back in, there are more cautionary tales and sage advice for those fleeing. The fires are raging and it is best take what you can – leave any other possessions where they are. The Storm is a song that has those stark and apocalyptic lyrics but the compositions remains, by comparison at least, strangely calm and controlled. Other bands, if they were to write a song like this, would throw intense solos and pummeling percussion in and maybe dampen and distill the effect. The Storm is something that always intrigues the senses. Following the lyrics and jumping into the song: it is impossible not to feel a bit of fear as the lyrics grow heavier and more agitated. Repeating that message to leave and flee: Payne’s voice starts to rise and becomes more dramatic; perhaps realising the situation he is in. Again, I was not thinking about literal situations and cast my focus outside the circle. Yes, there is the possibility of a real-life storm and something as simple as that. It is hard not to dig deeper and think about other avenues and digressions. Perhaps there is a nod to a relationship breakdown or a general shift in music culture- subconsciously or not; the song is not as straightforward as you’d imagine. Maybe I am over-thinking and looking down rabbit holes, but This Modern Hope does that to you. Great songwriters are those that can keep their songs relatable and accessible but have more than one direction/explanation.
After the repeated warning and increasing desperation, there is another compositional passage that ensures things do not get too heavy and intense for the listener. Similar to its predecessor, there is lightness and grace but enough unsettle to ensure the story keeps its intensity and anxiety firm. Percussion slams, pitter-patters, and rolls to give the impression of thunder and wind. Those strings keep lashing and giving ideas of rain and gust. Around it, there is a general aura of downpour and gales that is hard to escape. One speculates at this stage what compelled the song and whether there was a particular inspiration. Like I said with regards emotional and romantic possibilities: was there an event from Payne’s life that caused him to put pen to paper and create The Storm? It is another terrific and compelling track from This Modern Hope and a perfect album closer. I hear whispers there might be an album and if that is forthcoming, I could see The Storm being its finale. I say that because the song’s final minute finds the compositions accelerating and becoming more detailed and busy. Everything starts to race and there is a distinct move through the gears. You can feel the storm coming in and there is nowhere to run. Maybe the song’s characters evaded the worst and managed to find a shelter. It is a curious and gripping track that will leave you guessing and get you repeating it in search of conclusion and answers. As The Storm ends, the guitar notes repeat in a mantra-like quality and enforce their sound. Perhaps indicative of the rain or trying to punctuate a particularly stern expression: it a huge effective closing and one that will leave question marks and possibilities. Whatever the true origins of the song and the truth in Payne’s mind; every listener will get something different from it and have their own interpretations. The Storm has a similar feel to tracks like The Abyss but I feel This Modern Hope have created the finest song yet. Perhaps it is the story or the details in the composition but I found myself revisiting the song and trying to get to the heart of the matter. At its face, it is a simple song about outrunning a storm but there is that lingering doubt and potential something else is being assessed.
I dedicate this section of a review not only rounding things up but predicting the artist’s future. Starting with the latter: it is an exciting time for This Modern Hope. An impressive collection of singles under his belt and a (seamlessly) unlimited supply of avenues and stories. Following This Modern Hope’s social media pages; it is clear more music will come but what form will that take? The Storm is a typically assured and impressive piece from This Modern Hope that will surely get people talking and speculating. Perhaps there will be an album coming this year (there are photos to suggest there are), but for now, it is great hearing This Modern Hope in top form. With Payne, as one experienced during The Bedroom Hour’s regency, was his multi-discipline prowess. Every aspect of his musicianship and performance struck you and evoked some sort of emotion. So many musicians are sterile and faceless that it leaves you a little weary and disappointed. Every track Payne puts his name to seem to drip with emotion and has that atmospheric and cinematic blend. London is filling up with so many tremendous musicians and This Modern Hope can rub shoulders with the best of them. I am sure there will be gig opportunities afoot but, knowing Payne’s current schedule, he will want to get his music (and The Storm) to crowds and keep as busy as possible. The capital is a demanding mistress and does not guarantee platform and finance to all musicians who play here. I have witnessed too many undeserving and cliché musicians gain success and huge fondness – those that are worthy of success have toiled and had to fight very hard. This Modern Hope has a loyal and dedicated fanbase that is deserving of augmentation and multiplication. There are not many artists that do things the same way and paint pictures (like This Modern Hope). The Storm might provoke scenarios of violence, disorder and disturbance (which you get to an extent) but so much more is brought to the mix. One struggles to properly define the musical and components incorporated. This Modern Hope has that knack of pairing simplicity and accessibility with complexities and fine details. As such, it is important that This Modern Hope’s music is given wider regard and brought into the public consciousness with greater determination. Payne is doing his very best but it is down to social media followers and new fans to become proactive and engaged.
No matter what plans are afoot, it is clear – from The Storm’s huge force and nuances – that This Modern Hope is poised for future success. Payne has a good network of friends and musicians but it is his sustained vision and singular talent that keeps pushing through. It is, as I suggested up-top, a blend of moods and a nod to beauty that sets him aside from a lot of his peers. In a time where too many go straight for force and momentum (opposed to reflection and restraint) it is commendable This Bedroom Hour subvert the need to explode and whip out needless guitar solos. Those thinking reflection, evocation, and grandeur are uncool and ineffective would do good to spend some time listening to artists like This Modern Hope. To conclude, then. The Storm is a definite beauty that has a very instant and obvious impact but the more you play it, the more you get from it. Various passages, compositional elements and moments stand out (where they were quiet before) and the song gains new light and splendor. Call it nuance or talent: This Modern Hope should be part of your regular playlist; songs that nullify the petty dramas in life and engulf around you – bringing you into song and easing the mind. Keep updated on all the social media goings-on (links below) and ensure artists like Rob Payne’s This Modern Hope…
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