“I have a distaste for things that seem generic. I generally don’t land on the lyric that is the simplest formation of it, but I’ll know why I’ve chosen it.”
So says Hamish Hawk, a songwriter who, despite embracing the knottiness of his own lyrics in that very sentiment, lays his cards on the table rather bluntly. That’s also a good thing though, as the sign of a creative fully conscious of his own paths, and the means in which to make them stand out. Thus, Hawk’s work comes painted with the same strokes as artists like Rufus Wainwright or Belle And Sebastian, in intelligent, timeless pop songwriting that deliberately chase something elevated from the norm. Basically, if you’ve got a Radio 6 Music lover in your life, Hawk is one to turn them onto.
It’s the writing that’s the unequivocal lifeblood of Angel Numbers. Hawk sits snugly among the old-soul singer-songwriters the album is peppered with name-drops of and references to, with a weathered gravity far beyond that of a guy in his early 30s. And when you factor in the fluency and how intricately woven the reams of quotable lines are, it’s the sort of album that’s always rewarding to take a dive into. As much as the metaphors and imagery wind out thick and fast, there’s always some phenomenal colour to them, especially when the scope is really ramped up like on Elvis Lookalike Shadows or Money.
That’s the kicker—Hawk clearly isn’t afraid of embracing the pop instincts of the music he makes. There are prime opportunities to make this sort of album yet another dry, haggard folk gauntlet, or the most inhospitable, needlessly highfalutin thing you can imagine, and Hawk opts for neither. There’s a nice tone set for it by the opener Once Upon An Acid Glance, all glittery and dreamlike and so buyant in sonic palette alone. It’s elevated even further by Think Of Us Kissing and Desperately in the grand, sweeping Scot-pop of Snow Patrol; meanwhile, the gauzy glamour in the strings of Bridget St. John and Money bring in some healthy vintage pop elegance that goes down impeccably.
Outside of the less appealing accordion that dominates Frontman, it’s a pretty consistent stream of nailing it that Hawk finds himself on. It’s an impressively effortless display, mostly thanks to how charismatic and commanding as a vocalist he really is. His tone is stentorian with any associated rigidity swiftly ripped out, meaning there’s more richness and litheness allowed to bleed on through. The knowing wit is a big factor too, especially on a song like Money that’s inextricably tied to a sass and smirking humour throughout. Again, it dispels much of the preconceived notion of stone-faced laureate that might shadow Hawk from an outside perspective. Simply put, he’s a sublimely entertaining presence to listen to.
That’s perhaps what seals so much about Angel Numbers—how each individual piece is carefully aligned in exquisite pop harmony. You can gush all you like about the deftness of the writing, or how lush the production is (and doing so on both counts would be perfectly understandable), but it’s the sum of its composite parts that’s Angel Numbers’ real knockout. As it flows on by, swollen with substance and tremendously relistenable, it’s likely to be one of the most gratifying listens of 2023, even at this incredibly early stage. Thrills and whizzbang moments? No, but they aren’t wholly conducive with something being good, nor does Hawk even need to entertain the idea to prove that point.
For fans of: Rufus Wainwright, Pulp, Belle And Sebastian
‘Angel Numbers’ by Hamish Hawk is released on 3rd February on Post Electric Artists.
Words by Luke Nuttall