Gladsome Hawk
4/5

Former haircut 100 man Nick Heyward returns with a remarkable new record that stands toe-to-toe with past glories. A contender for surprise package of the year.

In need of an aural injection of Vitamin D? Well, step this way. Nick Heyward’s first solo record in 18 years is the perfect soundtrack to your summer.

Inspired by the Florida countryside and partly laid down in a Key West boat studio, the former Haircut 100 frontman’s ninth studio album is an upbeat and diverse collection that skips joyously across a range of styles.

Love Is The Key By The Sea makes for an elegant opener, all chiming clocks, spiralling basslines and gently strummed acoustic guitars. Its superbly hooky melody line could have come straight out of the songbooks of McCartney or Ron Sexsmith. High praise indeed then.

He dips into Americana for the fiddle-assisted Mountaintop (another immediately memorable chorus, too) and fuses it with Brit-centric power pop before the equally joyous The Stars, wide-eyed in awe at new love and the wonders of the natural world around us.

Dialling down the unalloyed joie de vivre a tad, the ethereal Beautiful Morning brings minor chord reflectiveness, although Heyward’s optimism still can’t help shining through. It’s testament to the strength of the tunes here though that such thoroughgoing ebullience never becomes cloying. The jazzy bounce of Who? will be instantly familiar to Heyward’s army of fans from his Haircut 100 days and is perhaps the most knowingly 80s arrangement here.

References to nature come thick and fast, Forest of Love is built on a smart metaphor that mixes countryside wanderings with a burgeoning romantic relationship. Lovers of Big Star and Teenage Fanclub will find plenty to enjoy in the crackling Baby Blue Sky, precision-tooled guitar pop of the highest order and a highlight (among many) here. The Weller-ish stomp Perfect Sunday Sun is equally fine. Meanwhile, playfulness abounds on pretty ballad I Can See Her: “Like a honey nut roast, she is the one that I
can toast…”

“At no point does Heyward drop the ball across the 12 tracks. In amongst his inherent instinct for finely-honed pop, it’s nice to see, too, that he can push the boat out for an acoustic instrumental interlude (New Beginning) that wouldn’t have felt out of place on Led Zeppelin III.” – Steve Harnell

A masterful return to the pop fray after far too long away. Echoes of Heyward’s very best work, indeed.

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