Except for You
Except for You is available via:
30th April, 2018
holds significance as I am in a similar position to Hollie Haines. I will talk about her relocation and the doubts she has. Before I come to that, I want to look at artists who bring sunshine and can lift the mood; making amendments to Pop and Folk; concepts and artists doing something interesting in music; why we need music like Haines’ in the market right now; where the talented songwriter can go from here – I will also touch on influences and evolving music. I want to start by looking at sunshine and a more optimistic mood in music. One cannot accuse Haines of lacking spirit and optimism. Sure, there are songs that are a bit more downbeat and contemplative but, for the most part, her glass is half-full. Her track, Keep Moving On, was lauded because of its infectious tones and joyous nature. Although Except for You is not quite as radiant as that effort: what we do see is a musician who always brings something redemptive and forward-looking to the plate. I will come to the song in time but find it interesting that there are very few musicians out there who bring anything positive into their sounds. I am seeing Pop artists coming through but I am looking at the lyrics are there are few who keep things light and offer anything happy. That might seem like a natural state of affairs: most of us have troubles and music is a natural and easy way of getting it out to the people. I can understand the confessional nature of music and why it acts as a comfort and shoulder. Those who go further and provide a sense of shine in their lyrics should be commended. Hollie Haines is a young woman who faces all the same tribulations as her peers: she will/would have had her heart broken and goes through stressful times; challenging situations and doubts about her career and self.
That is to be expected but, rather than lay it out all there like a dead cat stuck in a heating vent; she assimilates those harder questions into the mix but sprinkles in plenty of vitamin C, chocolate and alcohol into the potion – sounds like a disgusting mix but, for the purposes of metaphor and the visual, let’s go with it! I am impressed that someone so young has that desire to improve the listener and put them in a better frame. It seems rather explicit but, as I am writing about him this weekend, Scott Hutchison (of Frightened Rabbit) is in my mind. There has been a lot of sympathy and condolence following his suicide. Few knew about his state of mind – it came as a huge shock to many when news of his death was announced. It goes to show there are those in music – and life – who are struggling and need assistance. Music, to many, is a sense of therapy and help. In a rather difficult and sobering time; I am looking out to the world and looking for something that comforts and aids me. That is what one gets from Hollie Haines. Her music provides a perfect time to escape, reflect and feel better. I have been listening back at her material and finding the sunshine, smile and hug needed to get through things. One cannot underestimate the power and potency of having music like that in the world. I am not suggesting something as basic as positive music would have helped Hutchison in his darkest hour: what we do have, in songwriters like Haines, is a ray of light and someone who speaks for us. She has endured harder times and obstacles along the way. Her words are deep and redemptive; her voice pure and passionate; the compositions are stunning and nuanced. I have been looking for a songwriter who gets every box ticked and make me think. I get a relief and happiness listening to her; a way of easing any burdens and channelling all those negative thoughts somewhere safer and far-off.
Let us look at the genres of Pop and Folk and where they are right now. I have written about both over the past few months and seeing artists do something different and exceptional. Pop, to some, has the image of this sugary and commercial thing that is all processed vocals, inane lyrics and forgettable moments. Folk is seen, by some, as rather plaintive, boring and tame. I do not agree with those assumptions and have a lot more affection for the genres. I do agree there are flaws in Pop at the moment. Too many artists are going for streaming figures and something popular – rather than expending any effort and doing something different. Folk is not as integrated into the mainstream as it should be; there are artists pushing boundaries but dominance is still quite a few years away. Hollie Haines’ music is Alternative-Folk and mixes in Pop elements. I feel there is a lot to love about her music and what she is doing with the genre. Rather than present and play the rather tepid and beige form of Folk that we can hear out there – all finger-picking and calm breeze – she adds something energised and affecting. I have been following Haines for a bit and seen the way her music has evolved. If we keep genres stiff and do not move them forward then that means we are in danger of seeing them die out and lose their inspiration. Pop has had its moments and great times – right now, things are changing and it is becoming more mature and self-reflecting. Folk is challenging for attention and moving away from the one-dimensional and simple sounds we associate with the form. Haines is a bright and engaging songwriter who grew up around music and sprinkles in different elements into the fore. You get classic Folk strands alongside modern Pop and her own D.N.A.
I am always looking for artists that go beyond the predictable and offer progressive and fascinating music. I am a big fan of Folk music and have been following it since the 1960s – musicians from there; I am not THAT old. What I have noticed is how it has mutated from the acoustic-led and calm sounds we jump to a more expansive and broad fabric. Now, in 2018, we have Folk artists pushing boundaries and integrating other genres together. Haines is getting stronger with every release and putting her own identity into the market. I have been looking around and trying to align myself to artists who do something different and go out of their way not to follow the pack. Haines is an artist who could easily negotiate and compromise. Rather than parrot the masses; she is creating unique music that stays in the mind long after it has been heard. I will move on to other topics but I wanted to look at the changing nature of Folk and Pop. Looking forward; I know Haines will continue to make fantastic music and seduce audiences. It is difficult easily defining what Haines does. She plays Alternative-Folk but there is so much more at work. One gets soulful vocals and something spikier; there is that sunny Pop brew but you even get some little kicks of Reggae – not explicitly but in nature and vibes. I am interested seeing where she goes now and what the future holds for the talented songwriter. Not only is Haines’ music addictive and stunning; she will inspire others to get into music and show what you can do with genres like Folk. Many are put off from exploring a genre because artists do the same thing and do not add their own personality into the music. Hollie Haines is different: she goes further and ensures not only is the listener stunned and hooked; other musicians are giving direction and an idea of what can happen if you truly push yourself.
One of the reasons I wanted to look at Haines’ newest song is because it forms part of a song arc. It is part of a concept that has intrigued me. Like the stages of grief – ‘acceptance’ and ‘depression’ are in there: I forget the rest! – there is something real and relatable about Haines’ mission. She is addressing loving, losing; hurting, missing; healing, letting go and loving again. It is a story that is bookended by love and finding something positive. Keep Moving On showed what Haines was capable of and how her music could lift the spirits. Her story arc begins with love and finding someone in the form of Except for You. It is a hauntingly beautiful and crystal-clear song that finds the heroine putting her heart out there and finding something pure. Maybe it is not as vibrant as previous material but there is that aspect of moving forward and looking to the future. Songs along the way will look at loss and hurting; missing someone and having to let go – before coming back to a new love and discovering fresh hope. Haines is putting out a new single each month: Except for You is the first step and a chapter that begins a remarkable and everyday reality. Many people would have gone through the same experiences as Haines. That is what I mean when I said she speaks for other people and brings something hopeful into the music. Although things will get a little darker down the line; the way Haines writes is to find some hope in the shadows and move forward. Even though her current single prides beauty and entrance over serotonin and rush; you have a song that puts your mind somewhere beautiful and relaxes the tensions. Everyone will be able to understand where she is coming from and what she is going through. I have seen a few songwriters try something ambitious when it comes to single releases and concepts. The completed album, that will include all seven songs, will be interesting to hear. Having the introduction out into the world gives you a flavour of what to expect: knowing Haines’ music; one realises you can never predict and assume the next track will be exactly the same as the last.
Many artists try concepts and get ambitious with their music. That might take the form of something unusual and everyday. If you have a concept in mind and want to do something different in music then it can be hard convincing the listener. I have seen new artists release E.P.s that run the mind through a story of a narrative arc. It is fascinating seeing musicians who take a risk and go that extra step. It is fine releasing singles that form part of an album – with no cohesiveness in terms of their themes – but I like those acts that do something new. I know many albums are defined by a certain tone or story: how many artists do something like Hollie Haines and release singles in the same manner? Not only does the listener gets a nice teaser and is compelled to follow the story all the way to the end; we also get a different vibe and sound with every track. I wonder who it is Haines is talking about when she looks at that new love and finding something pure. I have been thinking about other forms of discovery and revelation when it comes to Except for You and what it stands for. I will come to that in a bit when I look at the song itself. One other reason I wanted to look at Haines and her newest track is that of where she has come from and what she is tackling now. I have heard previous work like The Walls I Built (E.P.) and can see how far she has travelled. She is in a different space right now and looking to the future. Not only has her confidence increased and her songs strengthened; she is taking risks and doing something genuinely exciting. That rate of progressing means, in years to come, she will be tackling the mainstream and mixing it with some of the biggest artists out there. I cannot wait to see what form her singles take as we follow the story through the coming months.
We need to celebrate artists like Hollie Haines in the market because she is doing something new and resists the temptation to do easy and obvious music. I know she will want to get along and succeed in the business but that is not coming at the expense of limiting her scope and narrowing her mind. I have seen some promising acts come along and show early signs of promise. Haines has been tipped by the media and (her songs) have resonated and connected. That boost and backing have given her the confidence to conspire and take big steps with her next venture. Because of that celebration and faith, we have seen Haines explore new ground and set her sights to the future. I want people to back Haines because she has that perfect blend of ingredients one does not find too often. The vocals are wide-ranging and have so many different emotions within them. Her lyrics are personal and meaningful but they can be appreciated and understood by everyone who listens. Rather than push away the public and create something that is only meant for limited enjoyment; Haines writes from the heart but puts it out there for everyone to investigate. You can hear one of her songs and feel like it was written for you. It might not be about love or losing someone in a relationship. You can extrapolate meaning and familiarly whatever you are going through. The ‘complete package’ is something you hear linked with a few artists. I hear that said and wonder whether it is exaggerated or a bit premature. The fact Haines can have that applied to her is no exaggeration. You have the sumptuous and extraordinary voice that can convey sadness and loss but get right into the heavens and bring the sunshine out. There are those changeable and interesting compositions that move from pure Folk to something approaching Pop. One also gets lyrics that step into the avenues of love and loss but can angle into other climbs. Her personality is bright and bold; she has an energy and passion that is infectious and endless – everything you want from a modern-day artist.
I will get to reviewing Except for You soon but, before then, a look at taking a leap and moving to a new area. I am in the process of doing the reverse of Hollie Haines: moving from the South and going to the North. She had questions and doubts when she moved from Leeds to London. I can understand why she was reticent about leaving Leeds and going to the capital: many have spoken fondly about the Yorkshire city and its people. There is great music up there and plenty to love. It is hard getting rid of all that and moving somewhere different. London is bigger and more packed than Leeds; it is a long way away and it is a gamble moving somewhere to make it in your chosen field. For me; I am moving from the South and hoping to get myself to Manchester. London has always been my first choice but I have found few opportunities arrive. It is difficult being able to afford life there and remain sociable. It is hard finding the money to remain there and balancing that work-life agenda. Haines is in a stronger position and is doing great in the city. For me; moving to Manchester has all the benefits of London – the music and energy – but it is a more affordable option. Aside from having to balance things and transition there – finding a job before I get there and being able to spend as little money as possible scouting – it is an interesting and needed move. Haines moved because she wanted to get her music into the spotlight and find more chances. There is a great scene in Leeds but it is a long way from London. A lot of the best artists from Leeds have moved to other places and looked for greater focus and audience. Hollie Haines had great local appeal back home but now, when she is in London; there are those bigger venues and new horizons.
Many people will be thinking of moving and want to find a new life. For those in the music industry; you need to go to other places and where the action is. Haines has realised most eyes are in London and that is where most of the chances lay. Many have gone to the capital and found life a bit hard and expensive – they have left and moved to other areas. Haines has seen her music taken to heart and realised how far it can go. Now, down in London, she has the chance to get into the mainstream and get under the radar of the big labels and venues. I am not sure how many gigs she has coming up but I know the summer will be busy for her. It is exciting looking at Haines and where she is heading right now. I can see her going very far in London and taking advantage of all the city has to offer. Right now, she is penning her album and getting songs out there. Venues will come calling and fans will want to see her perform and put the songs into the ether. I am not sure which part of London she is based in but I know every corner of London will take her to heart and celebrate the music. The coming years will be the most interesting. Now she has relocated and is settled somewhere new; there is that curiosity and desire. Haines is a hungry performer who wants to put her music out and connect with her fans. I know she will be looking further than the U.K. when it comes to gigs. I see no reason why she cannot get her music to European audiences and, soon enough, get some U.S. gigs lined up. I can see the Americans vibing to her sound and really getting a kick from it. The future is bright for Hollie Haines and it seems she is determined to take her music as far as is possible.
Ahead of the next song in the cycle; we have the exceptional and stunning Except for You. It begins with yearning, gentle and rousing strings. The guitars rumble and there is a sense we are walking through town in the night. Things are still and the brooding strings get the mind thinking of imagining. The soft and inviting mood is a warm water you immerse yourself in and wonder what happens next. There are possibilities and visions that come to the mind. Maybe it is the symbol of the heroine embraced in a passionate moment or sitting on a window ledge and looking out at the horizon. The composition conveys so much feeling and passion from the opening seconds. It is interesting hearing the vocal come in because it has a rather distance and haunting quality. Rather than being polished and top of the mix; the vocal is a little further down and sounds like the heroine is singing from a distance. It gives the song a lot of gravitas and sense of the physical. You can imagine her calling from afar – there is a dream-like quality that has a haziness and sleepiness. Our heroine is talking about everyone else leaving and that one person being faithful. It is challenging keeping love and finding true companionship. It seems friends and those close to her have departed or let her down. Rather than give up hope and assume that is the way things are; Haines has found that loyalty and trust. Maybe the love is established and enduring: it might be a fresh romance and something that has come at the right time. Haines is reacting to that faith and glad she has someone who is sticking with her. Lamenting at those who have fled and why people are leaving; you wonder why this has happened and where she is heading. Maybe the heroine has been through some bad relationships and been scarred in the past – a look at those who have abandoned her and broken her heart.
Those ethereal and spectral backing vocals give the song shiver and a rare beauty. I can see why some have compared Haines to the likes of Laura Marling – there is a bit of Enya in there, too (in a good way). The heroine has given her heart to someone and that has been repaid. Rather than run when things get hard and leave her in the cold; the sweetheart has remained true and provided that rock. Everyone else has left and they have caused Haines hurt. Her love has stuck loyal and there are signs things are going to ensure. Knowing how the story will develop and end – the heroine losing that love and having to deal – you cannot help feeling a little bit sorry at how things will go. In the moment itself; Except for You is a moment of serenity and passion that gets into the head. It is amazing to see how Haines can switch mood and the variation she has. She has produced intense and energised moments before but here, on her latest offering, there is a stillness and beauty that still manages to have that hope and uplift. Rather than cheapen the sensation with fiery choruses and chirpiness; we have a song that digs deep and gets into the bones. Strings dive and weave; there is a romance and sense of elegance that causes shivers and smiles at the same time. It is wonderful hearing how the background impacts the centre. The ghostly and tender vocals fuse with the strings and push the heroine forward. The lead vocal has that seduction and beauty that is hard to shake off. The fact everyone else has left and her lover stays true gives her hope things will work out well. It is almost like a cliff-hanger in a way: Except for You has positivity but you know things are going to change. I have loved experiencing Hollie Haines’ latest release and how far she has come. It is an impactful, stunning and deep offering from an artist who keeps getting stronger and more ambitious.
Many have compared Hollie Haines to the likes of Marika Hackman and Laura Marling. There is a little of those artists in her own tones. You get the depth and intelligence of Marling with the verve and youthful ambition of Hackman. It is always hard comparing artists to other because the music is always changing and few musicians stand still. Haines has her own sound and it is delightful seeing how she progresses and what comes next. I have said how Except for You is the start of a seven-song cycle that looks at love and new hopes and then has to accept the breakdown and coping with loss. Things will end with the positivity of a fresh love and new starts. In many ways, that story seems to reflect Haines moving from Yorkshire and settling somewhere new. She has experienced loss and change and it has affected her greatly. It is hard leaving somewhere/someone you love and having to start anew. What is most daunting is losing a life that seemed stable and full of potential. Her story and music will reflect in other people’ eyes and give them heart. I have mentioned how Haines is someone who keeps the mood up and always looking forward. Even when she has to tackle loss and cope with being alone, there is never the sense she is in a pit of despair and things are hopeless. You get that desire to get out of the rut and find something positive. Previous songs have shown she can mix explosive and sunny with something a bit more emotive and moonlit. That is the sign of a songwriter with a broad and developed sound. I am compelled to see where Haines goes from here. It will be a very exciting and prosperous time for a young talent who has already won hearts. Get behind Hollie Haines and follow her every move. She is a rare songwriter who has come a long way but…
PLANS on going a lot further still.
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