What do The Byrds, The Beach Boys and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young have in common? Yup, that’s right. Harmonies. And it is exactly this that sets The Hazey Janes apart from many of today’s indie pop groups.
Named after a Nick Drake song, The Hazeys are siblings Matthew and Alice Marra, Liam Brennan and Andrew Mitchell. Hailing from Dundee, they formed in 1999 and released a self-titled debut mini-album in 2004. Hotel Radio is their first full-length CD.
The album kicks off with Always There, a song on the same subject as Carole King‘s You’ve Got a Friend, but more upbeat. With lyrics such as “When you feel like you just don’t care, that’s when I’m always there / Loneliness is hard to bear, that’s when I’m always there,” it’s hard not to feel uplifted.
Many of the songs seem Beatlesesque. Step into the Country has a Fab Four feeling. Even the production on lead singer Liam Brennan’s voice makes him sound like he has John Lennon’s legendary Liverpudlian larynx.
Tapping into the Dolly Parton Country scene is the song Moanin’ Face. It has many of the components essential for Country, such as guitar twangs and the theme of love, illustrated by its lyrics: “Sometimes I may sit and wonder where you are, but you don’t need my moanin’ face around.” Its harmonies are beautiful and, on occasion, as layered and full as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s.
An unequivocally beautiful song is the melancholy This Place is Just Not My Kind, accentuated with acoustic guitars and an electric piano. Juxtaposing this is the overly cheerful Get Down, with a bouncing bass line, and the easy-going laid-back pop sway of Saturday. (The later gives the impression – thanks to the sound of footsteps treading through water and birds tweaking – that the Hazeys are in fact playing it outside on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.)
Your Enemy, the band’s debut single, Toulouse and Don’t Look Away are three thrashing, driven indie Ash-like tracks with catchy tunes.
Lead singer Liam Brennan’s vocals are nice. However, only when teamed with sole-female band-member Alice Marra ‘s (who looks like a young Chrissie Hyde) harmonies are they fantastic. Don’t Look Away (where Alice sings lead) is reminiscent of Blondie‘s Deborah Harry. It is a shame the long-fringed back-up vocals/acoustic guitarist doesn’t have more to sing.
Hotel Radio is a good album filled with strong songs. With such a variety of genres, the CD is indeed like a hotel radio – but being tuned between different American stations.
If you like easy-listening, country-fied, indie, guitar pop, reminiscent of the best parts of Teenage Fanclub married with The Byrds, The Hazey Janes are for you.