When I listened to the first notes of Hazlett’s debut album Bloom Mountain, I already knew that I had to hear this whole album right now. What instantly caught me was this feeling of wideness I had when the artist hadn’t even started singing yet; it was just the simple but warm sound of his guitar that made me feel like my lungs got two times bigger.
The name of this opening track is Please Don’t Be and, at this moment, it’s by far the most streamed song of the album. Listening to the lyrics, you might think that you are hearing a classic heartbreak song, especially when Hazlett repeats the simple line “please don’t be in love with someone else” in the chorus. However, throughout the whole album, it is worth it to listen very closely to what the songwriter has to say – otherwise, you might miss some pretty wise words.
In terms of lyrics, the final few lines of Please Don’t Be are what mark this song as much more than the desperate wish to remain the most important person for an ex-partner. In these lines, Hazlett reflects that it will never be a solution for him to hope for the other person not to “be in love with someone else”, but that it is to let go and move on.
“I found a new tone, you left your sage
To hell with my desires, they were the cage”
Hazlett describes Please Don’t Be as “one of the more raw moments of writing I’ve had in a while”. He explains that the lyrics combine the “nagging feeling of inadequacy” he had an ongoing battle with, with the words of a friend that got stuck in his head: “It’s easy to see someone moving on, but to see them falling in love the way they did with you… then that is going to sting a whole lot more.”
While Please Don’t Be is more about the fear of this “sting”, the third song on the album, My Skin, describes the feeling of realising that it is actually happening:
“I’ve seen the way you look at him
It’s crawling underneath my skin
If moving on is the medicine
Then you’re all out and I’m all in”
However, Bloom Mountain is so much more than a break-up album. Yes, it is full of painful emotions, but it won’t hurt its listener, because Hazlett is speaking in the voice of someone who has been through lots of struggles; someone who has seen darkness and is not afraid of it anymore. And as sad as some lyrics might sound, they never come without a warming notion of that, if not now, in some time everything will get better again.
A Love Song For Friends
While heartache and struggles with oneself are some evergreen topics of song-writing, for the second song of the album, Even If It’s Lonely, Hazlett has chosen a topic that is not so frequently covered in overall pop culture. Over on Instagram he previously shared that
“‘Even If It’s Lonely’ (is) an ode to platonic love, or as I call it ‘warm love’. Not the kind with fireworks or the one best-selling novels are written about, but the kind you have with your closest friends. The kind that often guys don’t give to each other.”
The way in which the musician appreciates this kind of love as probably the most important for surviving, gives this song a special place on the album. In the lyrics, he describes “warm love” with an emotional specificity that marks all the most sparkly moments on Bloom Mountain.
“I wanted to be a little bit more
someone you see, who you adore
But happy sleeping on your floor”
Even If It’s Lonely stands out as one of the highlights of Hazlett’s debut, not only in terms of lyrics but also in terms of production. While he generally sticks to a rather conventional indie production style with a mainly acoustic set-up supported by electric guitar and bass and some soft electronic sounds, in Even If It’s Lonely, Hazlett creates a dramatic arch through the adding and removal of these elements that are just chilling. The song culminates in a voice memo of one of his friends, which rounds off the heartfelt warmth and directness of the song.
“I was in the middle of wrapping up the song and I got a voice message from my friend. She (…) was letting out some things to me that she was going through that totally eclipsed what I was going through when writing the song. I held the phone up to the microphone, recorded it and hoped to god that she would agree to it.”
However, this early highlight of the album makes some of the following songs in the middle part, such as My Skin, Everybody Hates Me, Skeletons and Oh Downhill, seem a bit stagnant in terms of musical dramaturgy; but, of course, they are still worth a listen – especially for all the lyrics-lovers amongst you, for Hazlett’s music glows in the moments where he is able to transport his feelings in simple yet beautiful words.
Towards the end of the record, the songs become more interesting again regarding production. The seventh track, Part Time Lovers, convinces with a very well-balanced relation between calm verses with reduced instrumentation combined with a suddenly lively chorus, which gave me the feeling of sitting in a starting plane every time the chorus reappeared. The last song of the album, To Sleep In A King Alone, comes along with a fantastic warm and fuzzy synth and a more acoustic folk set-up, that made me wish Hazlett had made a few more sound explorations like this on Bloom Mountain.
Hazlett’s intuition for finding the right words is quite unique. Listening to him, it becomes apparent that he is a sensitive and thoughtful person with a special talent to see things clearly and express them in an honest, hence relatable, way. Earlier, I had Hazlett quote the idea of “warm love” – and I think that is what this record can give you if you take the time to listen to it closely. It can be a warming blanket, a little sunbeam, a friend who will always tell you that better times are lying ahead.
Bloom Mountain is out now via Nettwerk. Make sure to give it a deep listen.