Screenprint titled "MODERN ART POSTER (C. II.8)" by Roy Lichtenstein, 1967
Darren Hayman is a severely under-appreciated songwriter and one of my personal favorites - his career has been a little harder to keep up-to-date on since the end of his band Hefner, but every time I pick up one of his elusive releases, I am comforted by the fact that his talent hasn't diminished. His latest, The Ship's Piano is a set of songs that he wrote in 2009 after suffering a head injury (the story I've heard is that he suffered a fractured skull when was attacked after a gig, leaving him with hearing loss and headaches). As a result, these therapeutic songs are mostly piano-based ballads and lullabies with simple lyrics.
The songs on The Ship's Piano are a far cry from Hayman's usual bouncy indie-pop character sketches (including his current three-album project, the Essex trilogy), but they aren't without their charms. Hayman supplements the album's titular piano with brushed drums, muted horns, and other quiet embellishments - the first three tracks ("I Taught You How to Dance", "Old House", and "Cuckoo") are particularly strong. After that, the tracks a mix of melancholy odes like "Take a Breather" and "No Children" (not a Mountain Goats cover), instrumental interludes, and a couple too-long tracks ("It's Easy to Hang With You" and "Oh Josephine") that are probably quite soothing if you have a head injury but are otherwise just soporific. The album's closing track is the title track and one of Hayman's best, though - it has a narrative lyric set to a lovely, lovelorn melody.
"The Ship's Piano" by Darren Hayman