Sheffield, England, native Richard Hawley often sounds like a performer you'd hear on a David Lynch movie soundtrack—his style merges that of an early rock & roll crooner with a contemporary feel that is both dreamlike and crystalline sharp.
Hawley emerged in the U.K. music scene as the guitarist for The Longpigs, a group which had almost a half-dozen hits in England but never really gained traction here. He played guitar with Pulp for a time, and released two solo albums early this decade. More recently, Hawley co-produced the singer A Girl Called Eddy, adding some of the retro charm on her record that's so evident on Coles Corner.
The album begins with the string-drenched title song about a real-life corner in Sheffield where lovers have met up for generations. Hawley was taken with the notion that there had to be many people who owe their existence to Cole's Corner. "I'm going downtown where there's music, I'm going where voices fill the air," Hawley's deeply romantic lyrics proclaim. "Maybe there's someone waiting for me with a smile and a flower in her hair."
Although in Hawley's songs, such romantic notions are frequently dashed, as in the title song as well as in "Just Like the Rain," which features this sentiment, "You're still in my mind and here's where the sound of my tears hits the ground, just like the rain." Rarely does love gone awry sound almost appealing as it does through Hawley's lyrics. As he has stated, "I'm expressing how I feel, truthfully. And when people tell the truth, no matter how ugly it is, it can't help but be a beautiful thing."
The song called "The Ocean" is a classic of slowly-building majesty, a love song of ambiguous denoument, that sounds like how Leonard Cohen might have recorded "Hey Jude."
"(Wading Through) The Waters of My Time" and "Hotel Room" both sounds straight out of the '50s. "Hotel Room" sounds like its retro arrangement is courtesy of Angelo Badelamenti, and "(Wading Through) The Waters of My Time" evokes the early Sun singles of Johnny Cash.
There's not a bad track on Coles Corner; indeed, several of the songs reach a transcedence that is beautiful to behold.