Think of an finely tuned mix of City and Colour, The Cure, Bon Iver and Nick Drake. Add some very Sgt. Pepper-esque vocal mixing, and combine all of this with minimal song textures. That is essentially what Philadelphia's own Heyward Howkins has created, and the wistfullness and simplicity shown is downright hypnotic from start to finish.
The whole album is an exploration of musical experimentation, and a testament to the finer intricacies of music. It's a stripped back affair; but Heyward manages to pull off something brilliant with the simplistic instrumentation, and bring an inherent amount of detail to the album.
From the gradual build-up of the introducing track 'Thunderin' Stop,' to the light-hearted conclusion of 'Hudson Piers,' this heartfelt exploration through lyrics and music of one man's life is infectious. Much like a concept album; but then again not, the themes throughout Hale & Hearty are strongly apparent and are easy to connect with, while not feeling like a burden to the enjoyment of the songs.
The turbulence of romance, the tranquility of nature, wanting to be a better person and overcome your own downsides; it's all deeply explorative of the human psyche. However, unlike many other artists who dive into these topics, there's something different about this. It'll be the one item that will either keep you hooked or deter you upon the first few minutes of listening to this: enchantment. A risky debut that pushes the creative boundaries of acoustic/minimal in which its based, making this a very polarising experience. That is why, quite simply, I love it.
It takes a very particular frame of mind to listen to Hale & Hearty: this is by no means an easily accessible, commercialised piece of music. But invest, and you're in for one of the most captivating albums of the year. 9/10
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.