Edinburgh’s wordsmith du jour Hamish Hawk returns with his polished and elegant fourth album, Angel Numbers.
The record builds on the award-winning success of Heavy Elevator, which saw Hawk transformed from minor Scottish indie circuit support act to headline status thanks to big-ups from serious name radio voices like Marc Riley and Lauren Laverne. Angel Numbers not only stands up to the weight of expectation but exceeds its predecessor in its 12 vivid meditations on expectation (of him and society), garnering new experiences in his artistry and the undulating checkpoints of adulthood.
It’d be easy to throw out a few well-kent names by way of comparisons. Sure, Hawk will remind you of great past – and current – songwriters but he is a unique modern Scottish lyricist who doesn’t go for the easy option; “I value originality very highly… I generally don’t land on the lyric that is the simplest formation of it,” he is quoted as saying. And there’s no denying you won’t get well worn rhymes or tropes in these songs.
Hawk is however, careful not to stray into snootiness and Angel Numbers remains relevant across the record. Indeed, on the title track his empathy is apparent when he rues being “strained under debts I owe / they say the magic word is mortgage.”
On lead single, Think of Us Kissing, he frets over the toxic machinery of how so many of us are forced through an algorithmically-led life. He’s aware enough to foresee and reject it as best he can; “the future is a factory / is hating me / the brutalist industry I’ve seen / is really not my scene.”
Meanwhile, on the anthemic Money he takes a withering view of modern capitalism and the seemingly omnipresent poseurs “just desperate for money”. On the country-tinged Rest and Veneers he expresses his frustration with “California sociopaths” dictating how we view and warp our own ideas of wellness and individuality.
And on the music behind the voice, you can expect a palette of classic 80s Scottish synth pop, electro and gentle balladry. The lyrics are of course the main attraction with an artist such as Hawk but he is very ably supported by his band who layer textures which serve his words with the perfect backdrop on each track. Much of the record was recorded during the extended lockdown period, which allowed both Hawk and his writing partner and bandmate Andrew Pearson to really explore the craft of song building, free of hesitance to produce a formidable body of work. The greater choice has paid off and one can only wonder if there are any gems which didn’t make the cut on this collection.
Angel Numbers is a perfect reference of its creator. As a record it is both sceptical and romantic, wry and direct, knowing and bemused etc. etc. Above all else however, it is a clear sign of an artist in his stride and ready to make his name in 2023.