Wild Beasts were a very special band and we enjoyed their brand of peculiar – and later downright horny – indie-pop. So many fans were sad when they decided to call it a day last year but the band have left a legacy of five records that still leave you ‘hooting and howling’ whenever you decide to put them on. The Kendal four-piece finished on their own terms and as soon as the split was announced, we were excited for what the members would do next. Co-frontman Hayden Thorpe decided to take the solo route and is now set to release debut album ‘Diviner’ on Domino on 24 May.
Opening with the title track, ‘Diviner’ showcases Hayden’s sparse and emotional solo sound. As he plays the piano and talks about being a keeper of secrets and fever dreams, the song starts to fracture apart as he pleads ‘I’ll be your disciple, show yourself’. Synths are then thrown into the mix as Hayden makes a haunting observation: ‘My ghost, it left my skin… A house of mirrors, always shimmering’. Following on from this is ‘Straight Lines’, an avant-garde song that my wife instantly compared to Tori Amos while I was preparing this review. It has talk of the ‘crazy world’ we live in and then a number of questions: ‘How am I supposed to live moving in straight lines, surrounded? How am I supposed to live, speaking in straight lines, dumbfounded?’ ‘How am I supposed to live when living with you baby means I end up like this?’
The album was recorded with Leo Abrahams, who’s previously worked with Brian Eno and Jon Hopkins, and there are certainly elements of spaced-out ambient minimalism throughout the running time. Recent single ‘Earthly Needs’ has Hayden showcasing his gentle falsetto as he softly sings ‘I cannot unlove you’, while the gentle galloping rhythm of ‘Love Crimes’ is the closest this record sounds to Hayden’s old band as he shares his emotions and poignantly admits: ‘I’m not giving up on fear, I’m just giving up on us’ ‘We’re living a life of love crimes’. The more anthemic ‘Stop Motion’ is full of Daniel Johnston-style heartbreak and longing as Hayden talks about being broken and losing control: ‘Stop motion left out bits of me’.
With its subtle strings, the contemplative ‘In My Name’ seems to have a political message that will resound with so many in today’s divisive society: ‘If you must crusade, don’t do so in my name’; ‘Don’t fly that flag in my name, while ‘Human Knot’ is an enigmatic piece full of layered vocals offering words of reassurance: ‘I’ve got your back, so don’t overreact’; ‘I’ve got your back so don’t overreact’.
The eerie and incidental ambience of ‘Spherical Time’ has aspects of John Cale but combines them with Max Richter before ‘Impossible Object’ closes the record in style. Goosebump-inducing from the very first note, it finds Hayden talking candidly about his emotions with an underlying religious tone as he talks about angels weeping and kissing the person who has his affection’s feet: ‘The world is waiting for a sad sight, no more hiding out in plain sight. Lose the disguise, it’s you I recognised’.
Although more reflective and less theatrical than Wild Beasts, Hayden Thorpe’s first solo album is one to savour. It’s full of honest emotion, affection and intensity that is worth your divine attention.
Order ‘Diviner’ here.