Album Reviews

Orlando Weeks – Hop Up

(PIAS) UK release date: 14 January 2022

Orlando Weeks - Hop Up Artists often refer to their albums as their babies, but Orlando Weeks has more reason than most for cradling his two long players to date. Hop Up, his second solo album in seven months, finds the former Maccabees frontman preoccupied with fatherhood, which has developed since the formative stages of the first. That record was A Quickening, capturing the anticipation and barely concealed terror around the big life event of becoming a parent for the first time.

With those stages safely negotiated, Hop Up stands to celebrate the recent arrival and the growth spurts that go with it. These are represented in musical form, the heartfelt domestic events unfolding over cushioned synthesizers, tensile guitars and lightly groovy rhythm tracks. Like the life it describes, Weeks’ music moves at a steady pace but never has the chance to slip into lazy shoes.

The musical poise brings with it a broad harmonic profile and a few allusions to Talk Talk. Yet in its more reflective moments Weeks’s vocal resembles a-ha’s Morten Harket, with its creamy undertone and soulful falsetto. Both are employed to good effect on Hey You Hop Up, the vocal line soaring, while Look Who’s Talking Now opens out beautifully, “hanging on the words” of the newest family member.

The contented space Weeks finds here is bolstered by the production of Bullion, and the airy keyboards, subtly probing bass line and nicely phrased guitars make the music light to the touch. Big Skies embodies this spacious approach, its keyboards like big cumulonimbus clouds as the voice travels airborne above. Make You Happy layers the vocals, the couplet “All I want for you is to be happy, makes me happy” taking on extra meaning as a result.

Katy J Pearson offers a nice complementary vocal to Bigger, with a dreamy harmonica as counterpoint, but otherwise the solo voice is given plenty of space. Through this we witness a softer, soulful approach than the Maccabees, in the process revealing the fragile intimacy within Weeks’ lyrics.

The combination of staccato piano and falsetto on Yup Yup Yup Yup is as positive as the track title implies it will be, despite a verse where Weeks admits to “waiting for the sunrise, tired as fuck”. Ultimately positivity wins through, in a declaration that “Each day, in new ways, I love you”. Lest things get too comfortable, No End To Love brings added urgency, the need to “celebrate it” lest he “blink and miss it”.

This is, without cliché, a life affirming record. It is easy to share in the wonderment at such a young life when Weeks phrases his vocals as he does. With so much talk about the tragic ending of lives through the pandemic, it is also a joy to report on the beginnings of new ones. Hop Up, then, becomes a successful antidote to the January blues.

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More on Orlando Weeks
Orlando Weeks – Hop Up
Orlando Weeks – A Quickening