Australia’s Hayden Calnin comes billed as the country’s answer to Bon Iver. Which is kinda both good but more than a little bit sucky for a man who clearly has a lot of talent, but feels so burdened down by his overwrought debut on Cut Love Pt 1.
Take the title track, for example. It clocks in at nearly eight minutes, determined to move with its sparse instrumentation and Calnin’s yearning alt-folk vocals. But it lurches with a sense of deja vu, the chorus refrain more annoying than moving. That sense of try-hard emotional manipulation is rife on this debut which, for the record, doesn’t really compare to Justin Vernon. Honour seems steeped in artifice, it’s vocal trickery a gimmick that loses all impact than enhancing it.
But when Calnin nails sincerity, it rings utterly true. Small Leaf is as delicate as its title might suggest, fluttering down with his falsetto as a stripped-back, stop-the-clocks moment of hushed wonder; So Nice To Meet Ya again captures a rare magic that proves Calnin’s potential. But then it’s back to songs like We Are Stars & Spheres, which sounds less like Bon Iver and more Kanye West‘s interpretation of him on a feature. It’s a valiant effort on Calnin’s side, but if there’s a Cut Love Pt 2 he’s really going to have to break free in his own right.