Since Hefner split back in 2002, lead singer Darren Hayman has spent nearly 20 years quietly becoming one of our most prolific, varied songwriters. As well as a series of collaborations with the likes of Emma Kupa, Allo Darlin‘ and The Wave Pictures, his discography has spanned folk lullabies, music set to the poetry of Victorian writer William Morris, and an instrumental album celebrating open air swimming pools.
And yet, if you were to define the quintessential Darren Hayman album sound, you might answer: “Acoustic, exclusively recorded on 8-track, all about relationship break-ups, with probably some guest vocals from somebody from Tigercats“. Which, as it happens, is exactly what Home Again is.
It is also, predictably enough, absolutely lovely. Hayman has always been a songwriter who has worn his heart on his sleeve, and the 12 tracks gathered on Home Again showcase his way with a winning couplet. All the songs are – yes – about break-ups and the complications that come with them. The Joint Account even deals with the extra admin that comes with a break-up – “What will I do with all these photographs?” Hayman sighs, with the harmonies of Laura K and Hannah Winter (who appear throughout the record) adding to the aching poignancy.
Despite the subject matter, this isn’t a mopey album. I Was Thinking About You is stirringly upbeat, even though it’s about trying and failing to put an ex-lover out of your mind. Dinosaur Plate has a lovely singalong chorus listening different dinosaur species that manages to sound unbearably poignant, while I Want To Get Drunk succinctly sums up the universal feelings often triggered by a break-up.
The decision to record entirely on 8-track is a wise one – there’s a lovely, warm feeling to the record, with Laura K and Hannah Winter’s vocals becoming an important part of the project. The horn section on I Love You, I Miss You, Come Back is a nicely wistful touch, and opening track Curl Up introduces things with a hushed piano which sets the mood nicely for what’s to come.
The delights of Home Again is that Hayman sings about emotions that are easy to identify with but sometimes hard to articulate. Lines such as “We had the wrong sized plasters for dried up broken hearts” beautifully sum up why some relationships run into problems, while Hayman’s voice sounds better than ever – the fact that he sometimes strains for the note or cracks with emotion on certain lines just makes the album more touching and genuine.
It ends, as all good journeys should, reflecting on lessons learned and a new sense of hope. A Girl That I’m Seeing talks of the titular character who healed the “scars on my heart” and Wrap Yourself Around Me makes for a cosily optimistic end to the record. As Hayman remarks on A Girl That I’m Seeing, “It may not be love, but I fucking love the feeling”: a line that sums up an album that pretty much everyone will find something to identify with.