If you have a sweet-tooth for the sugar coated confection of 80’s inspired synth-pop then the latest release by Hurts should help you get your fix as the duo return this week with their sophomore studio album, Exile.
Three years after the release of the outfits debut album, Happiness, Hurts are back to offer some of the same ingredients that helped the band find themselves a welcome fixture on the UK charts and team up with the likes of pop superstar Kylie Minogue for a spectacular duet.
Happiness was released in 2010 and the record offered us a sturdy 12 track collection full of haunting melodies, mournful lyrics and electronic hooks that won us over instantly. Bittersweet ballads like the phenomenal Stay, the upbeat magic of tracks like Wonderful Life and the infectious Better Than Today as well as Devotion which invited Kylie Monigue to sing her way through a stunning, well constructed melody with front man, Theo Hutchcraft, introduced us to pops latest icons.
Sophomore efforts are looked at in the same vein as movie sequels; it’s either a sink or swim, with the majority of follow ups proving to be more lack-lustre than their predecessors and when we seen Hurts’ newbie arrive in our inbox, we were both excited and anxious about the release. Happiness is a fairly difficult album to follow and with the powerful, A-list duet that saw the act team up with pop-royal Kylie Minogue, we dove in to the record with high expectations.
Starting the new collection off with the records title track, we get a heavy dose of synth-pop but with a raw, Muse-esque feel to it. Exile is quick to welcome in some grinding guitar riffs early on while other parts of the number have a Goldfrapp Supernature quality but still remaining waist deep in the signature electronic waters that Hurts have presented to us with previous recordings. The track is very busy, taking the focus of Theo’s vocals slightly and a little too rocky in parts for what we are used to from Hurts, but overall the opener is a well arranged intro for Exile.
Miracle pretty much picks up where Happiness left us. Here Theo is the focal point of the track with his distinctive vocals swaying their way through an engaging bridge before the numbers anthemic chorus injects a lifting, vocal-layered hook into the track that will easily allow the duo to continue their reign over the electro-pop genre.
Sandman starts off sounding slightly ghetto with its hip-hop coated verse instrumentation while keyboardist Adam Anderson’s skilled musicianship and a complimenting children’s choir provide the track with a series of spooky chants and more than a handful of memorable musical moments.
An instant favorite on Exile is offered in the gorgeous form of Blind. The track is probably one of the closest cuts to the bands Happiness track listing. The chorus of the song is sweet yet lyrically metaphorical and chilling as Theo’s vocals are heard on top form on this song, reaching some beautiful falsetto peaks within the chorus’ of the number.
As we get deeper into the record, The Cupid casts an industrial sound over top Theo’s slightly echoed vocals. The instrumentation is pretty grainy on this inclusion with clashing guitar riffs opening the track while the following Mercy unites Hurts with their signature electro-pop roots once again and propels the listener through a meaty addition to Exile, which encapsulates the duo’s inspiring and stylish songwriting skills that come hand in hand with the tracks apocalyptic-ish coating.
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Amongst all the up-tempo numbers within the track listing of Exile there are some ballads that fill in the record nicely. Among them, The Crow does a spectacular job at delivering a gentle, melancholic swayer with its echoed vocals and some subtle yet complementary double bass moments scattered within the tracks Americana inspired unveiling. Somebody To Die For and The Rope also take us back to the bands debut sound and could have easily been placed within the track listing of Happiness with Theo’s powerful, operatic vocal style taking the spotlight on both tracks.
Exile is certainly more filled in instrumentally than Happiness and we aren’t entirely sure that we are fans of this newfound sound, particularly the moments where they get a little too industrial for our liking. Despite the ‘at-times-industrial-and-guitar-riff-heavy’ moments that we are offered on Exile it is far outweighed by the duos seemingly effortless ability and talent at crafting some poetically brilliant and musically shining pennings. Pair that with Theo’s sorrow-fuelled yet stunning vocals and Adam’s charismatic synth skills and Exile is offered with our high expectations and hopes fulfilled.
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