Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Charlie Simpson: 'Little Hands' Album Review

Charlie Simpson is one person that really does not stop working on what he loves. He’s a very busy man. Let’s recap; not long after his alternative rock outfit Fightstar released their latest album Behind the Devil’s Back last year, Charlie Simpson announced his return to Busted, the act that made his name in the musical world, along with the new Pigs Can Fly tour, which is about to begin. Meanwhile, he is busy working on material under the name Once Upon A Dead Man, a synth led indie rock act, who released an EP earlier this year. Now, quite literally out of nowhere, and days after the first new Busted single was released, Simpson decides to drop a brand new solo album, Little Hands. It seems unusual that the album would simply appear out of nowhere, without any warning, promotion or even a lead single. Perhaps it was simply lost under the weight of his other projects, or perhaps it was a last minute decision, cast aside to focus on other works. Whatever the reason, Charlie Simpson’s new album is now out for the world to hear and it is an interesting listen.


The album unusually features a few tracks that were already featured on previous albums, such as the title track to his last album, Long Road Home. However, these tracks have been worked to sound almost like a live representation of the original composition. This could be because the album appears to be a studio session of sorts, recorded over a short space of time by Sam Featherstone at London’s Price Studios. In this way, each song has a raw, live energy to it, culminating in what feels like an intimate performance, showcasing music both old and new.

Little Hands opens with a stripped back, raw version of Emily, a Simpson classic, which really reanimates an already brilliant song. Charlie’s powerful vocal range is showcased in this nostalgic moment. Emily is followed by the title track, a brand new piece of material from Simpson, with all the signs of an immediate classic. The song’s themes reflect on Charlie’s home life now, with his new born baby being welcomed into the family. The live session quality about this recording means that you can really hear the emotion in the singer’s voice, as he sings about what he is truly passionate about it. The next track, Walking with The San, is the product of Simpson’s work with tribespeople for the television series Singing in The Rainforest. Simpson spent time living with the San Tribe, and wrote and recorded this song with them. The use of the tribe’s percussion, clapping and vocals really lifts this already dynamic song, making it my favourite within this collection.

The track that really intrigues me is towards the end of the collection, a track called Lost. This track stands out to me as it does not sound like anything Charlie Simpson has done in his solo career before. The track is textured, layered with big drums, howling guitar layers. It is an epic crescendo to the album. It also, to a certain point, sounds more like Fightstar material, dulled down to fit in with a collection of acoustic works. This being said, it really does make me wonder how much overlap there really is in the writing for each of this singer’s projects; when Charlie has so much on the go, surely there must be songs that were written for one purpose, yet end up sliding in with another project. This may be the case with Lost, which sounds like it was truly intended for the last Fightstar release, but never quite made it, and so ended up in this album instead. To this extent, it becomes questionable whether Little Hands is even an album, but more a collection of songs without a home anywhere else.

Listening to this album, I feel like it is less a singular piece that flows from song to song, but more a collection of tracks, old and unreleased, that Charlie is passionate about and wants to share with us. The songs showcase Simpson’s undeniable talent and passion for music, his brilliant vocal range and ability to make even the simplest of acoustic guitar melodies sound powerful. What I love about Charlie Simpson’s solo career, is that, unlike Fightstar, or Busted, these acoustic albums paint a small portrait of Simpson himself, an intimate affair, telling anecdotes of his home life, his past, and his feelings towards the future. Little Hands is no different, and the live session style of the album works well for Simpson, to portray these themes to us in a different and interesting way, at a time where a lot is going on for the singer, celebrating the reunion of Busted, and his new born child. This album is a landmark, for both Charlie’s career, as well as for acoustic music.

Facebook: /charliesimpsonmusic
Twitter: @charliesimo

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