For any musician, sustaining a solo career whilst being a member of two vastly different bands would present difficulties. Little Hands however, is an album born out of a man who is a functioning member of post-hardcore band Fightstar, as well as being an original returning member in newly reformed pop rock band Busted. Amidst writing a new album with Busted and preparing for their thirteen date UK tour, Charlie Simpson has emerged with his third solo album, a follow-up to 2014s Long Road Home that showcases revamped previous songs and collaborations with the African San tribe, as well as previously unheard material.
Though it is the second to last song, Lost is the most refined song on the album. Complete with a textured, visceral blend of instrumentation and harmonies, its sound is plump and engulfing as his passionate display evokes the same feeling in you. Re: Stacks is also a standout track; opening with beautiful orchestral strings, it develops gradually and is one of the best vocal displays Little Hands has to offer. These songs do come as a surprise though, as unfortunately the first three songs on the album all put forward a very similar framework and structure, leaving little room for excitement (or pitch change, in fact). However Walking With The San definitely defines itself, with the choral harmonies delivered by the San people, who Charlie visited personally in television show ‘Singing In The Rainforest’.
Barricades Of Heaven is the first dramatic change the album delivers. Beginning with a folk-infused harmonica and much more refreshing harmonies than the slightly drowning ones on earlier songs, it is a lyrical nod to his time in first band Busted, thematically exploring his early rise to fame. The songwriting in particular on Little Hands is refreshing and at times whimsical. However If I Hide, Will You Come Looking? is an unfortunate dip in this trend. The falsetto on the chorus is delightful and crisp, albeit a little strained, but the words “If I were to hide, would you come looking for me” deliver as rather retch-worthy.
Though slightly mundane, it is worth mentioning that the album opens with Emily, a stripped back rendition of a song previously displayed on previous album Long Road Home. It is a beautiful song if you exclude the muddy harmonies and basic structure, although I suppose the latter is due to it being a ‘rendition’. However despite some tiresome inserts, this album is full of smart lyricism and clever instrumentation. It closes with the delightful lullaby-esque The Day Texas Sank To The Bottom Of The Sea – quite a tongue twister, but a pleasant listen. And collectively, Little Hands does make for a pleasant, if not outstanding listen, even if, as said (multiple times) in its title track “it don’t come that easy” to him!