Part of the same Sheffield scene which spawned The Crookes, High Hazels step into the limelight with their first EP. Like their fellow South Yorkshire pretenders, this new four piece specialise in a happy/sad Northern Britain outlook, predominantly informed by the romance and rock and roll of yesterday but with a nod to the dream pop productions of today.
Yet whilst The Crookes specialise in an almost breathless form of indie, High Hazels are the kings of lovelorn ballads. Opener ‘French Rue’ is an absolute killer of an opening track. Scott Howes’ vintage guitar hooks shimmer deliciously and when James Leesley opens his mouth something really quite beautiful emerges; a young voice but one equipped with all the bittersweet experiences of a man twice his age. Clearly, these guys are not another set of young upstarts jumping on the retro bandwagon, there is real emotion and talent here.
The tender melancholy of ‘Winter Song’ sounds magical, featuring lovely layers of reverb-soaked guitar and a key lyric of “The sun has fallen down, on an empty town”. It’s unmistakably nostalgic but High Hazels put their own stamp on it, just as The La’s did a quarter of a Century ago. Continuing the weather theme, ‘Summer Rain’ is a stomping number more redolent of The Crookes or indeed those other modern purveyors of jaded romance, Chapel Club. This just leaves a glistening ‘Loose Stitches’ to close the EP, reverting to the quartet’s strength in balladry with yet more 60’s period grace.
High Hazels are currently working on their first album and if they keep up this brilliant form, it could be one of the best of the year. So Richard Hawley better watch out because a new band of heartbreakers are in town to steal his mantle.
Richard Hawley, The Crookes, Chapel Club, The La’s