Where his debut was charming but inconsistent, there is a noticeable difference this time around. Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You is remarkably assured and holds together well. The tracklisting is slightly misleading, as four of the tracks are short instrumentals, leaving 11 songs proper.
Things start off well with Dead Head Blues, a gentle track that builds into an epic piece of drama. Then comes recent single Marlene, the album’s most dynamic song as strings fly around a crunching bassline like twittering birds taunting a predator. Hynes is being typically playful as he messes about with timings and structure, but it’s altogether tighter than his previous material.
And there are more stand-out tracks. There’s the rollicking mid-tempo waltz of I Don’t Want To Wake Up Alone, the infectious country-lite pop of Sweetheart and the smoky ballad Smooth Day (At The Library) complete with crooning harmonies. He hardly puts a foot wrong.
One obvious change is the absence of Emmy The Great, whose femininity was previously used as a contrast to Hynes. In its place is the masculinity of a male choir that features on a number of tracks. They back Hynes up as he plaintively cries “I miss you” on the gorgeous ukulele-accompanied There’s Nothing Underwater, and crop up repeatedly through the album, adding a sense of grandness.
There’s less joking around this time too. No song title comes close to Everyone I Know Is Listening To Crunk. Lyrically, he still dwells on his loser status, but it’s not as all-consuming as it was previously. The theatrical The Big Guns Of Highsmith offers a nice touch of self-awareness as his whinge of how it hurts to be the one who’s always feeling sad is met by a refrain to “oh just stop complaining”.
The question is whether something has been lost in his transformation. There was an intoxicating appeal about the higgledy-pigglediness of his debut. Sometimes it felt like he was making lyrics up on the spot as he rambled on to an uneven meter.
But what comes through now is the strength of the songwriting, and his willingness to try out new things. While everything about this album indicates that Hynes has done a lot of growing up, there is still a sense of fun as well. If his audience can mature with him, there’s a huge amount to enjoy here, and his even keel is to be welcomed. Sweet indeed.