The track, December Park, is available via:
The album, Bedsit, is available via:
2nd March, 2018
I am in need of a distraction at the moment...
as my email account has been hacked and, rather annoyingly, there are a lot of emails and contacts on there that I cannot retrieve. That may be by the by but, as usual, I need some sort of calm and settle from music. It is a bit of a chilly time out there so I am looking for something to settle the blood. I will talk about Jamie Hutchings’ December Park in a bit but, before then, I wanted to address a few things. Although his album, Bedsit, has been out for a little while and there has not been a new single since the early part of last year, Hutchings has been working hard in Australia and trying to get some traction for the record in the U.K. and Europe. I will discuss that later too but, for now, wanted to look at unusual and rare settings for writing music; Australian artists and a part of the world I do not get to investigate that often; record that, whilst in a tone I am not a huge fan of, seem to be very personal and might have their own escapist quality. I also want to address artists who mature and move through different stages/ranks to get that experience; a bit on breaking from somewhere like Australia to the U.K. and a little on when Jamie Hutchings might head. Most records tend to be written somewhere quite conventional and conducive to calm. There are albums that are penned in the studio or somewhere a bit unusual but most artists favour something a bit more settled and unusual. They might write at home or go on holiday somewhere to get the creative juices flowing. I often wonder whether there is a link between location – when it comes to writing – and how a record sounds. It is interesting to see why certain artists choose the locations they do and how that translates in the final product. For Hutchings, he went to the Outback. That might sound quite bleak but it seems like it has led to something very personal and revelatory.
I have seen artists retreat from the busy city and go somewhere quite sparse and nomadic. Think about Bon Iver and when he recorded For Emma, Forever Ago. He was in a woodland cabin and sort of shut everything away; reflecting on personal heartache and coming to terms with change. In many cases, Hutchings has replicated that process and he has taken a similar approach. I wonder whether the woods or Outback is more detached and which creates the best sound. I do wonder whether more artists should take an approach like this and get away from all the technology. I think Hutchings needed to shut away any noise and really get down to the nub of things. I think it can be a bit extreme going away and being that distant but it can focus the mind and lead to some fantastic songwriting. I will move to another point very soon but it is fascinating to me. I think there is this wisdom that suggests you need to record at home or a studio and that is the way to do things. In a lot of instances, finding your own version of unique and peaceful can add something to the music. There was the emotional reason behind Hutchings going to the Outback and choosing to record like that and it seems to have brought the best from him. I am curious whether he got much time to walk around outside and find inspiration there. He was in this sort of converted shed/barn and, with a sixteen-track recorder and six microphones, recorded Bedsit with a few musical friends. It is amazing to think it came together like that and such a location led to this brilliant music. I think there is a natural correlation between your setting and sound but I hope Hutchings finds some peace and is in a finer mood on the next record. The Outback is a great area but one would not want to record there all the time you’d think.
I mention Australia and the Outback and it has been a while since I have been to that part of the world. A lot of my reviews and interviews look at musicians from the U.K. and U.S. and it is good to be in Australia. I love the music from there and how artists work. Historically, Australia has produced some of the finest artists ever and I think they should not be overlooked. Given the distance between Australia and nations like America and Britain, I do think the artists over there get ignored and it can be hard for them to get focus. That is a shame because there are some fantastic artists working in Australia. I think the standard of living and the varied landscapes have a lot to do with the music variation and quality. One often thinks of Australia and relates to this rather calm and measured demeanour. It is true the Australians, for the most part, are pretty chilled but that would suggest the music is all like that. In fact, music coming from Australia is as wild, eclectic and passionate as any in the world. With incredible cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart producing their own scenes and some fantastic locations, I feel Australia is a nation that many should look towards. Think of all the past treasures that have come from the nation: everyone from Nick Cave to Sia and it is clear there is a lot of brilliance to be found. I think it is harder for artists to get worldwide acclaim in the country and, when it comes to touring, it often involves a hefty flight. There are fewer finer countries to tour in than Australia but, if you want to go to different nations, it can be a hard and tiring process. I think one of the reasons I love Australian music so much is the fact it tends to stray from what we consider to be normal and mainstream here. There is a mainstream there but a lot more artists moving to their own beat and stepping away from the conventional.
I will address another point soon but I think Jamie Hutchings perfectly displays what it is about Australian artists I love. He has recorded in this very grand yet underpopulated part of the country and did that because he wanted to get the best from the music; cut off from the distractions of a city and go somewhere he felt comfortable in. I do like the fact that he is a respected musician in Australia and I hope his music gets to make a big impact over here. There are great reviews out for Bedsit so I am confident it will not be long until the man is touring here and has that demand. It will be a long trek but we do not often get to see Australian musicians tour and I think that is a shame. If one dips deeper into the nation and discovers the music out there then they will find one of the most interesting and innovative scenes around. I mentioned different cities and it is true there is a vast contrast when you move from state to state. I guess there is here in the U.K. but Australia, to me, seems to be even more exciting and varied. Great Australian newcomers like Camp Cope, Jade Imagine; Moaning Lisa and Orion are starting to turn heads and show what they are made of. It is hard for people in the U.K. and U.S. to get a good impression of the nation unless radio stations play artists from Australia. I will look away from Australia but I would recommend people do some research and dig deep. Make sure you listen to Jamie Hutchings because he is one of the finest and most respected artists from the nation. I am excited he has an album out right now and there is that interesting recording process. Although a lot of the themes addressed will resonate, I think Bedsit is this personal and very precious collection of songs that, in many ways, sounds like a man unburdened and opening his soul.
I have rallied against artists who are quite downbeat and often wonder where all the fun has gone. I am not saying we all need to abandon the rather unhappy or personal songs but the music industry seems to lack a sense of excitement and optimism right now. I am not sure why that is but one assumes the personal is easier to explain and explore and it is something people can relate to. I agree with that but do wonder how many realise music should be escapist and we need to find some pleasure and optimism among it all. That is another issue because Hutchings could not have written a record like Bedsit and added too much fizz. I guess there are artists, new and older, who can give you something rousing but Hutchings has produced a record that is stirring and frank. He has opened up his heart and mind and brought the listener in. The title of his album seems to be very apt. Hutchings found himself living in this single-roomed house and it was a bit of a change for him. I am not sure whether he was living with someone else before then and had to move but it seems like there was transition and that change. One can get a sense of the narrow and insular on the album and maybe the images of living in a bedsit are a world away from the scenes of the Outback. In many ways, there is that related sense of loneliness and a chance, in different ways, to reflect and be with yourself. Bedsit is a very personal record as you’d expect and you get that live sound to it. One can imagine this rural space with very few luxuries where the musicians were all together and recording quite fast. I think there is this assumption music is at its finest when there is time to dwell and you have technology at your feet. Some of the best records ever have involved very little comfort and this rather natural and naked sound.
That is not to suggest Bedsit lacks richness and depth. In fact, the album has humour and great stories; the musicianship is great and the production balances between the live flavour and something a little bigger. I prefer my music a little bolder and optimistic but I think this is something Jamie Hutchings had to get out and explore. If a songwriter is going through a tough time and their world is changing, it is their duty to reflect that and put it out in music. I feel many will be able to relate to what he has gone through and how life has shifted. I do find myself wondering whether Hutchings is looking at lands altering and modern life smashing down what stood before; if it is about love and losing someone close; a feeling of being displaced and trying to come to terms with that – maybe a combination of all of them. Many who know the geographical sounds of Australia attest to the fact Bedsit feels very Sydney in its tones. Hutchings is from there so it is understandable he would have that sort of feel. I am interested whether there is a distinct smell and tone to Sydney and whether that differs greatly to Melbourne. Others have noted references to dreams and nature on Bedsit. We have an album that talks about the heart and home but it also spreads its wings and says a lot. Everyone will be able to take something from the album and feel represented. I like the fact the record is quite stark and bleak in places because it is quite brave being that naked. Many artists sort of skirt around the darker topics and going too deep but Hutchings knew he had to go that way. There is plenty of light to be found in the cracks and the variation of Bedsit is wonderful.
Jamie Hutchings might be familiar to those who know the band Bluebottle Kiss. They were quite a big name in the 1990s but maybe you need to be more familiar with the work coming from Australia during that time. The band was underground but they were much-loved and produced some fantastic material over time. Hutchings is one of those musicians who is not confined in terms of bands and sounds and he has performed as part of Infinity Broke. They are a percussion-heavy unit and working alongside songwriter Peter Fenton as part of The Tall Grass. I am not familiar with the ins and outs of those acts but it is impressive to see the fact Hutchings can step into different moulds and has that variation. It is the fact Hutchings is a seasoned live performer and has worked with different bands that leads to such great music. He has that knowledge and can bring the confidence to his latest album. Many artists take a while to cut their teeth and that inexperience can show in the studio. I think it is a shame Hutchings does not get a chance to perform more in the U.K. and U.S. but he has done before. There is a hope that, once Bedsit does good business here, that sort of possibility will be realised. I am new to Jamie Hutchings so I am sort of piecing everything together and getting to grips. I have listened to his entire latest album but I am also looking back at what came before. It is a great collection of work and I think more people need to check Hutchings out. I do think that experience he has had with different bands has worked in his favour and given him the confidence to be bolder as a songwriter. When it comes to the live performance, one can see this very natural and accomplished musician and you’ll get a very varied and interesting set. Let’s hope he gets a chance to bring it to the U.K. soon.
The aim, I guess, is to get Hutchings to other parts of the world because, as I have explained, it is hard for Australian artists to really shine and get focus further afield. I hold hope the media will change its ways and pay more mind to musicians in Australia but I guess it can be hard. The rigours of touring here and finding the money is always a challenge and something that needs to be considered. I do hope Hutchings gets over here because we need more internationality in music. Australia is producing some brilliant artists and I think they could find some great venues and support in Britain and America. It is hard to break any nation but Hutchings has a solid reputation. He is already loved in Australia but there are some who do not know him over here. Bedsit is picking up reviews but I guess it is tough to truly get the music to the people unless there are tour dates. I do hope more stations and people here play the music and there is great awareness. We need to start looking beyond obvious cities and nations because, when we truly open the eyes, we discover incredible and unexpected treats. I shall come to a song from Bedsit I wanted to review because, when you listen too, you’ll find that it is a fascinating and memorable moment. It is time to move on because a lot has been said about Jamie Hutchings and his latest album. I have explored a few sides to it and what makes it stand out but I suggest people either stream it or purchase it and listen to it alone. It is one of those albums you can get lost in. I am picking up new aspects from different songs and it is a wonderful collection. I wanted to focus on December Park because it has a video alongside and it is one of the finest tracks Hutchings has produced. It seems to embody everything about Bedsit and it definitely stays in the mind.
The opening of December Park is very natural and intimate. We hear the record start and you get sounds from the studio space opening things up. It is quite subtle but, rather than this brash and huge production, one gets to discover little noises and elements that you’d normally not experience. The guitar coda that leads from that is intensely beautiful and incredibly immersive. You are lost in this heavenly and intimate sound that gets into the mind and swims. I am not sure who Hutchings sources as inspiration but you can hear some greats of the guitar in his performance. It is a sensational opening and, before too long, you are engrossed in the track. I was already wondering what it was about and whether December Park was based on a real place or a state of mind. Maybe there is a combination of both because we see Hutchings walking through dark streets and getting tangled up. I guess there is that sense of mental dislocation and isolation; a need to find some safe space and comfort. The vocals match the music in terms of the production and sound. It has this quite bare tone but there is ample beauty and fullness to be discovered. Hutchings’ voice is not too high in the mix and it fuses nicely with the guitar. The guitar gets firmer and larger as the hero asks about someone and where they are now. A storm is coming and it seems like there is a bit of mystery. It is clear there is another party involved in the song but it is quite hard deciphering the true story. I do like the fact there is mystery and every listener can come up with their own interpretation. There are some wonderful lines expressed that makes you curious who this other party is. Maybe they are a former love but it seems like memories are flooding through.
Hutchings does not know whether the other is alive at all and what they are up to. He even projects this image of a badger in a ticket booth – an example of his original imagination – and you picture all these different elements and visions. Rather than portray rather ordinary and predictable words, Hutchings fuses in the unusual and unexpected. Many songwriters could learn from him when it comes to their own material. As the hero walks through the park, he ponders how easy it would be for him to be an apparition and spirit. Maybe the other person in the song was a former lover but they are somewhere else right now. It is not clear whether there has been this natural split but it seems like where Hutchings is now holds all sorts of bad images and memories. The way Hutchings reveals the words and opens his heart is spellbinding. I cannot compare his voice to anyone else and it has this very potent quality. The composition is not too heavy but there is this energy and sense of gravitas that adds to the vocal. I love the song and everyone will have their own interpretation. One of the best things about December Park is the imagery and how powerful the words are. I love the detail in the track and the unusual verses; the way the words entwine and how they seem to project this dreamy perspective. It is very personal and meaningful but everyone can find something that relates to them and their experiences. This other person has disappeared and there are questions around that. As the guitar campaigns and continues to strike, the hero lets his voice wander and wonder.
The hero/heroine being spoken of is coming back weary and lost. Maybe Hutchings is talking about himself and his sense of isolation but one feels there is a relationship or friend being ascribed. Little elements of Crowded House do come in here and there and I like the fact December Park has a mix of the relatable and original. It is a wonderful track that will get you thinking and perfectly documents what Bedsit is all about. Even though it is nearly four minutes in length, you will come back to the song and try to understand it. I have my own views and conclusions but others might go in another direction. I do love the vocal but think the guitar work is exceptional too. One gets this rather bare-boned sound but it works perfectly on this song. If anyone wants to discover a songwriter who can pour their heart out but does so in an imaginative and evocative manner then they need to listen to a song like December Park. I will follow Jamie Hutchings and his music because I think he is a rare talent and someone who can go a long way. He already has gone a long way but many people might not know him over here. I think that can all change when it comes to Bedsit and getting more attention in the U.K. and Europe. It is understandable why Hutchings is a celebrated name in Australia and has that big fanbase. There are very few who have that balance and mixture of intimate and personal alongside the imaginative and open. I think more songwriters should follow this course because, we can hear, the results are incredible.
Jamie Hutchings is touring around New South Wales, Australia from March and it will be good to see how the people respond. He is touring alongside Darren Cross – two of the most respected names in Australian music – and there are some great dates. Most of us will not get a chance to see them there but let’s hope Hutchings is afforded the chance to head this way later in the year. I love what is explored through Bedsit and it is one of those albums that will inspire so many others. It is a stark and bare album but one that has plenty of life and colour. Many might be offput by the fact it is very personal but I think everyone can get something from it. Make sure you spend some time with the album because, when you close the rest of the world away and focus, it is a wonderful thing. I am glad I have discovered Jamie Hutchings and will follow to see where he goes next. He has enjoyed a long and fruitful career and it is entering a new phase. I do wonder whether Bedsit represents a more single and lonely time for him. It appears things have changed and I do like the way he is handling it. Rather than get angry and hide away, he has released this record that brings listeners into his world and explains what he is going through. There are many beautiful moments on the album but I love December Park because it seems to incorporate all the aspects and contours that makes Bedsit shine. Let us end things here and I would implore, going forward, everyone to have a listen and discover a great artist. If it does well in the U.K. and Europe then there might be that chance for touring and further exposure. I hope that comes to pass because, after only one listen, Bedsit is an album that...
HAS won me over.
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