New Music: Heyward Howkins

No, I hadn’t heard of him either. But I think you should make the time and check out this deftly-arranged, warm pop-folk. Coming out of Philly, Heyward sings and plays guitar, backed by Severin Tucker on guitars, Charlie Hall on drums and Meg Morganelli on keyboards. They put a couple of tracks of their forthcoming second album, “Cut & Corral”, out on soundcloud ahead of release (although they are close to completing the record). You can’t hear them there anymore – but you can check him out on bandcamp here

The completeness, the competence of the arrangements of “Sweet Tea Oleander” and “Pundit” almost counts against them. You can begin by wondering “what is going to stand out ? What is going to make me remember this ?”. Let’s be clear – this isn’t a criticism of the music or the voice – it is all eminently listenable, but the danger would be that it is so nice, it disappears into the noise of everyday and everything else.

But that’s not the whole story. In “Sweet Tea Oleander” there’s the tone of the keyboards (I haven’t felt this sound so well-used since Natalie Merchant’s “Carnival” album), multi-tracked Heyward in the chorus, the judiciously-deployed swells of backing vocals transporting me to 1970s west coast pop… In “Pundit” the shuffle and skit of the drums, the rattle of the lead guitar, and the ghostly vocals that weave their way in and out of the song’s coda. Back to the production – this really is a very fully-realised sound – assured and confident.

The new album should be out this autumn, mostly recorded as a full-band performing live. The new LP was produced by Heyward and Ben Riesman (Le Fits) and mixed by Quentin Stoltzfus (Mazarin/Light Heat, Lilys, The Walkmen). Keep an eye out for it later in the year, if you don’t melt in this enormous heatwave. I’m off to make some lunch.

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