Second Hand Poet
Loving You is available via:
20th March, 2018
The mini-album/E.P., Songs for the Pyre, is available via:
IT has been a little while…
since I have written about Second Hand Poet. Jamie Tipson’s alter ego is a fantastic artist I have been following for years and now, in 2018, is making his biggest and boldest moves. I will look at the song, Loving You, in a bit but, right now, I will tackle a few other subjects. I want to look at Folk and the way it varies and expands; mixing instruments and becoming brasher with musical selection; progressing from open mic nights to bigger stages; artists whose songs get into the artist and reflect something universal; the need to reflect and embrace music that goes deeper and remains (in the mind) longer – where Second Hand Poet can go; where he fits into the modern scene. This year has been a pretty busy one for music thus far. The great albums we have already seen – the likes of Field Music and Tune-Yards – have been more adventurous, genre-fusing and vivacious. I am a fan of both albums – they are not the only ones that have remained in my mind. David Byrne and Kacey Musgraves have unveiled stunning albums; Jack White produced a big and weird record…it has been a year (already) for chomping and racing statements. I cannot remember a time when critics looked beyond the obvious and proffered something different. That might be a bit rash but it seems artists who produce something more intense are given more focus. Second Hand Poet produces music that, yes, has some firm sounds and urgency – most of his music plays with the intimate and tender. This year, I have looked around and have not seen that many similar-sound records around. Maybe it is the time we are in and the need for music to change: I yearn to discover something more soothing in the mainstream. I feel Folk has had a hard time the past few years. We have acts like Laura Marling and This Is the Kit but, largely, you struggle to name a lot of modern Folk acts getting focus love in the mainstream. Maybe First Aid Kit are the exception. Their L.P., Ruins, gained great reviews earlier this year. There are not many others out there – I wonder whether traditional Folk is still viable in 2018.
Second Hand Poet is part of a modern breed that mixes in other sounds and takes the genre further. I love acoustic guitar sounds and pastoral blends. There is a risk that, if you keep playing that same style of music, it becomes stale and predictable after a while. Music is seeking out artists who write from the heart and provide the listener something personal – this does not necessarily mean songs that are bare and naked. Because of that; Folk is expanding and broadening its mind. In many ways, the traditional Folk construct has disappeared, or reduced, and it has taken on a new form. Second Hand Poet has acoustic tones in the mix but one can hear other instruments and elements. I will look at that later but, thinking about his music, and I get a sense of a young man stepping up and bringing his music to new audiences. I am a big fan of Folk music but feel it has to evolve and modernise. The days of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and their ilk are best left in the past. Unless you have the songwriting ability of both – nobody in modern music does – then it is hard captivating people with few strings and a basic outlay. Those who stick to a simpler sound struggle to crack into the foreground. One of my biggest hopes of the year is a new album by Billie Marten – the Yorkshire-born artist created a sensational album in 2016 with Writing of Blues and Yellows. There was wistfulness in her album but, listen closely, and there is so much depth and revelation. Second Hand Poet provides the same thing. His previous music has been a bedroom-made, sparse sound that hooked you with its raw emotion and simplicity. The music, now, has increased in stature – still retaining that closeness and personal warmth. Like a lot of Folk artists today; Tipson has acclimatised and thrown more into the palette. Rather than compromise his sound and abandon his personality; we have an artist who has remained true to himself but shown greater confidence.
One of the most immediate impressions you get from Second Hand Poet’s new work, Songs for the Pyre, is the way other instruments help flesh and round the songs. The majority of the songs keep close to acoustic strings and Tipson’s distinct voice. There are Classical tones and fabrics that enter the fray, too. What strikes me is the way Second Hand Poet follows artists like Billie Marten, Laura Marling and Second Hand Poet and produces something striking and easily accessible. I have named female artists there: Bon Iver and Ben Howard are comparable modern artists. Given the cost of making and releasing music; a lot of artists are finding sounds from technology in order to give their music more edge and layers. Classical instrumentation has been in music (popular music) for decades now. In my mind, there is not enough of it the contemporary culture. A well-placed cello or violin can elevate a song and create new emotions. I have been a fan of artists like Nick Drake for years. His music is, perhaps, closest to Second Hand Poet. The way Drake worked with Robert Kirby to produce these elaborate, sweeping songs is affecting artists now – over four decades since the songwriter died. I feel Folk has always been synonymous with integrating strings and brass into the mix. Pop and Rock does it – not as regularly and effectively as Folk. Second Hand Poet’s author has grown up with legendary artists and understands how impactful strings can be. The clash between modern lyrics/production and older sounds leads to a brilliantly candid and layered sound. The music hits you when you listen to it; it remains in the mind and leads to personal investigation. You get lost in the songs and think more closely about your own life. That might be the power of the other instruments we hear on the songs. To me, it is the way Tipson understands their role and, with his guitar, gets into the heart. His lyrics talk of his own life but, in a wider sense, can be extrapolated by every listener.
I will move on to other subjects soon but, for a bit, will remain on this subject. I have not really talked about modern recordings and how artists are reacting to expensive studios. Tipson’s music has always been born in bedrooms and between walls. I know a lot of musicians write in their rooms and houses. What remains is that authenticity and trueness to his own self. He has not, on his new release, retreated to luxurious surroundings and created something polished and plastic. The songs have come from that close space and his own mind. I can imagine the writer penning his songs in a small room and watching them come to life. From there, there must be demos and he will lay down a basic track. A few takes might get recorded before other instruments are put on top. The addition of those other players/sounds take the music to new heights and uncovers new emotions. In future recordings, however far Second Hand Poet goes, maybe he will look at Kirby/Drake and what they produced on albums like Five Leaves Left. At the moment, I get a real hint of that work and the majesty present (then). There is a great reason why Nick Drake’s music has endured and inspired people all this time. It is not only the man’s voice and sublime lyrics that get into the brain: the compositions are fantastically powerful and stirring. I get a sense Tipson, as a songwriter, wants his music to endure for years and compel musicians who pick it up down the line. It is not only about, like so much music, disposable and for the moment. One gets the scent of a man who puts his all into the music; he labours over songs to ensure every line is as good as it can be – there are no wasted sentiments and notes anywhere in Songs for the Pyre. That album title might sound self-deprecating and dismissible: music not worth a second listen, perhaps?! To me, it is about the erosion of bad memories and transitioning into a new state; the pull and entrance of the fire; the way he can be alone and let all of his inner-thoughts come out – music that stands proudly and shows its grace.
I have, as said, followed the young man for a few years now. I know Tipson has a Rock/Grunge side-project (Gold Phoenix) and it is good to see a musician take a Jack White-like approach to his art – not confining himself to one demographic. The benefit of this diversity means his solo material is stronger and more confident. Tipson has been on the stage as Second Hand Poet and shredder in Gold Phoenix. Like White’s Raconteurs and The Dead Weather; I wonder whether Gold Phoenix are on the back-burner for now – or will rise from the flames soon. That is unfair, actually: the band has released music recently and they look like a firm unit. Tipson has, instead, taken from his band and brought it into the solo work. Like a scamp squirrel hoarding nuts for the winter – I had a late night! – the talented songwriter has collated nutrients and substance from the band and stored it in his own ‘tree’. By that, he has got confidence from the stage and written in a different way. That is not to say Second Hand Poet has gone all Dylan-esque and cracked out the electric guitar – his music still retains its ethics and does not go all mad and mental. Instead, you chart the rise of an artist who has learnt a lot from performance. He has, as such, adapted and altered as a songwriter. Whereas before, Tipson was writing in his bedroom and unsure how far his music would reach – writing more basic and honed songs – he has spread his wings, knowing his music has an audience. The songs I hear on the new mini-L.P./E.P. could easily be adapted and played by Gold Phoenix – they have the opportunity to get bigger and rawer. Tipson took a familiar route into solo music. He has used to do open mic nights and play songs to a handful of strangers. It is a good way to start and is a lot more daunting than you might imagine!
Getting up to an untested crowd, and being a new name to them, runs the risk of rejection and ignorance. Playing local bars/places – around London and Surrey – Tipson has learnt come a long way. Songs for the Pyre was recorded in London and is the result of dusting off some forgotten demos. A lot of the material has been in the archives and remained untouched until now. Tipson has been playing gigs and ensuring his previous material goes as far as possible. Now, with a fresh work in the ether; he has a chance to get back on the road and reach new faces. I wonder how many of the songs on his current record have already been played before. Certainly, the versions we hear on the record are different to the demos/basic tracks he might have played elsewhere. It is humbling hearing a professional-sounding record from Second Hand Poet and knowing, deep down, he still gets a kick from performing smaller spaces. You can imagine him getting to big festivals in time: right now, he is performing gigs locally and making sure his music is heard by as many people as possible. Seeing as he is still a Folk/Alternative artist, it might take a while to break from those local/smaller gigs and get into the mainstream. I yearn for the day when an artist like Second Hand Poet can take to the Main Stage at Glastonbury and entrance thousands. Tipson, as an artist, has that mixture of acoustic gems and thrashers in his pocket. He could easily produce a varied and compelling set. As Second Hand Poet; perhaps it might take a couple more albums before he is eyeing those headline places. He is testament to what can be achieved as a performer. He has not sold out and taken a cheap record deal. Instead, he has played open mic and built his way up; recorded in his bedroom and progressed from a D.I.Y. local hero to somewhere turning national heads. That is not to say Tipson has ditched home for a fancy studio: Songs for the Pyre is a fantastic mini-album, E.P. that stays true to its roots and wears its tattoos with pride.
Before I look at one of the songs from Second Hand Poet’s new work; I will look at music that needs to react to the times and unite listeners. I have loved some of the big albums that have arrived in 2018 – I have named a few of the artists – and am keeping my eyes peeled for new releases. Part of my role in music is reacting to the new releases and providing my thoughts. What I have noticed, from the albums I have reviewed in the mainstream, is the way the songs (on the best albums) are not only about that artist. They are a lot more considerate and seem to speak to me/others directly. Music cannot afford to be insular and selfish in these times. Artists need to look out at the world and write music that brings people together…or, at the very least, try and bring people into the mix. Tipson writes from his experiences but, when putting pen to paper, thinks about those listeners and what they will take away. I listen to his songs and can tell the young writer has poured his emotions onto the page. He has produced music that stems from struggles, romantic endeavours and personal needs; channelled that into music that can be understood and appreciated by everyone listening. I scanned Songs for the Pyre and, on the five songs, related to every word. I am looking for music to provide guidance and answer questions people cannot – get into my soul and lead to revelation and discovery. Second Hand Poet is a songwriter who has gone through the same pains and hard times as all of us. He knows other people out there are seeking clarity and are looking in music for that. The best and most promising artists are those who can pen something meaningful to them without excluding the listener. That might be in the form of social commentary or a viewpoint of the world in which we live.
Looking forward, things are not getting any easier and brighter. We live in a world that is unfolding at the seams. Music is that sanctuary and church where we can all hunker down and find safety. The artists I am bonding with right now are those who give me motivation and heart but provide messages I can take meaning from. Second Hand Poet has crafted a collection of songs that can educate, comfort and nurture listeners. Not only are the lyrics fresh, inspiring and relatable – the music has that lustre, romance and shimmer. It is a brilliant work that warrants further listening. What I love about Songs for the Pyre is the songs on them. That sounds simplistic but, what I mean is the way the music bounces around the head and compels you to come back. There are bands and artists who produce songs that hit you first time and then, the more you listen, the less powerful they are. The opposite is true of Second Hand Poet’s music. I find myself coming back and investigating various songs, at first, I think I had nailed and figured. That is the mark of a great songwriter: someone who can create nuance and not give everything away so easily. Tipson has been on the scene a while and mutated as an artist. Gaining experience from the stage and compelled by great reviews; his latest music, from old demos, is essential listening. Music is so packed and crowded right now: finding music that distinguishes itself from the pack can be a real challenge! I will move on now but wanted to recommend people get involved with Second Hand Poet and study his new work. Songs for the Pyre is a marvellous collection that is just what we need right now – music that will stand the test of time and find a willing and passionate response from the stage.
The opening notes of Loving You have that contemplative and muted air. They lead the listener in and get them settled down. I was picturing the sun cracking from behind the trees; the breeze gently caressing and our hero, in the open, waiting for his love. The strings are beckoning and enticing; they elongate and punctuate. There is a gap between notes which allows the listener to track their own visions and what the song entails. When the hero comes to the microphone; he talks about someone bringing him love. He will wait and keep his heart open. I get the view this romance is nothing new. Maybe the two have history or there has been a bit of intrigue for a while. The comfort and security of the vocals – no nerves and speculations – leads me to believe Second Hand Poet has tasted romance and love (with this girl) but it has never fully come to fruition. The lament and call he is putting out there is whispered and touching. The guitar never intrudes or strides out too firmly: it is compassionate and tender but it carries meaning and firm intent. Our man has this feeling in his hands; he wants this pressure released and has found something, it seems, that can take away his loneliness. I am not sure whether the two have found one another yet – or it is the seduction and beckoning – but you can hear the voice crack and implore. You are hooked by the power of the voice and how raw it is. Even though the production is clearer and more polished than previous cuts; you get the impression you are listening to Second Hand Poet in a bedroom with the moonlight flooding in. If you go to YouTube and watch the video for the song; you can see Tipson expending all that emotion and bathed in candlelight and calm. I wonder whether the romance he is talking about now is past or upcoming – there is a bit of loss and sadness underneath everything.
Maybe our man is a little hesitant and has been hurt before. It seems the girl has been lied to in the past. She has experienced her share of heartache and hurt. The heart is warm with ember and restless like the howl of the room. The hero asks the girl whether she can feel that beat and need for completion – he knows he can be the one for her. The mantra, “Can you feel it?”, comes back and underlines what Second Hand Poet is trying to say: he is loyal and will not let her down. You get the impression of lingering strings and something working in the background. There are little suggestions and scents. Second Hand Poet imagines the tryst and the bondng; the way the hands run through his hair and on his skin. The hands are cold – maybe symbolling someone with a cooler heart or something that has been lost – but, in a way, the hero is a warmer body and safety. Although Loving You, unlike other tracks on the record, do not have Classic elements at the heart; it is an intimate and bare song that opens up the mini-L.P. Rather than introduce other strings too early in the game and depart from his previous work too readily; he uses the opening track to keep true to where he came from and bring the listener in gently. Loving You is one of the most emotive and emotional songs Second Hand Poet has produced. I can see the song getting radio-play and proving very popular with people. You hear it a few songs and it is not until a little way down the line you start to piece everything together and understand the whole story. The song unfurls its wings and blossoms the more you investigate it. That is the mark of a great songwriter: someone who can produce something immediate, but leave the listener wanting more – they will go back in and pick up new things from the song every single time. Congratulations to Second Hand Poet on a remarkable single – from a triumphant and quality-packed E.P./mini-album. He is someone, I know, will go very far in the music industry very soon. Getting more confident and secure with every song he provides; one can chart his progression and know, in years to come, he will nestle among the big names of the mainstream.
I got in a little trouble, last week, when I suggest a musician needs to improve their social media and get more photos out there – and ensure they have a Twitter account set-up in the future. I stand by my assertion regards Twitter and how that can get music to new audiences. Tipson has Second Hand Poet on Twitter. I look at the other point I made and whether new artists have the money to afford a collection of photos. I did not mean to offend the musician I reviewed. I was looking constructively at his music and thinking of ways more people could get involved. He countered, fairly, with the view (musicians) do not have a lot of cash – or want to produce a few select shots for each campaign. Second Hand Poet has a few great images and they portray a fantastic vision. I wonder, as he thinks about new work and where he goes; maybe new shoots will come to light. Second Hand Poet has that fantastic image that, oddly, reminds me of the likes of Father John Misty. That fantastic concentration and facial hair – in fact, there is an element of an elder nobleman or cleric; a wise man who is here to impart wisdom to the people! I can imagine Tipson taking to a London church and producing photos there; maybe a scenic backdrop or something more adventurous. In any case, as with my previous review, it is worth noting this suggestion is designed to help the artist – not scorn or pour criticism their way. I suggest everyone gets themselves behind Songs for the Pyre and a fantastic young songwriter. I can imagine Second Hand Poet is planning gigs for the spring and summer. I could see him doing well in spaces like St Pancras Old Church and St Giles-in-the-Fields: intimate and gorgeous locations where you can really hear the benefit of acoustic/Classical music. I am not sure what Second Hand Poet has planned regards gigs and where he will take his songs. Kudos to Tipson and what he has created. By revitalising and polishing demos into a cohesive and layered set of songs is no easy feat – he has managed to do this and wetted the appetite for more music. These are still early days for the songwriter but, on the evidence of songs like Loving You; there is every evidence to suggest Second Hand Poet can go…
ALL the way.
Follow Second Hand Poet