What is Erik Hassle? Is he the pained singer of songs like Bump In The Road? The guy who did the odd acoustic collab with Ellie Goulding? Is he a songwriter to the stars, or the man who can sell bangers all on his own?
While the above may argue a case for his versatility, the slow returns kind of prove a point that’s reinforced with his new album Innocence Lost: he is at once all of these things, and somehow none of them at all.
That’s not for doubting Hassle’s intention though. There’s much gusto in the foot-tapping openers No Words and Pathetic (the latter being Timberlake-level good), but the man flits between so many iterations of froth and all-too-accessible heartbreak that none of it really has the time to acclimatise. Either with him or us.
More to the point, when once Hassle was a forward-thinker when it comes to songwriting, he seems a step behind on this album. The songs are all perfectly listenable – Breaking The Waves has a vibe, for example – but they offer nothing we haven’t heard done better elsewhere, and neither do they communicate anything new. By the time the second half kicks off with TKO, we’re retreading not only his peers but Hassle’s own work itself.
He’s a talent, though, that’s for sure. And in the early ’00s he probably could have sold this as A+ stuff. But if Hassle is going to be more than just a background strength for other acts, he’s going to have to up his game than, say, the tired trip-hop vibe of FTPA (which oh-so-inventively stands for Fuck The Pain Away). Like the man cloistered in a car on the album sleeve, it feels like Hassle needs to get out of that personal bubble and live a bit more if his future material is ever going to resonate.