REVIEW: Hailey, It Happens – Aurora

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Artist: Hailey, It Happens
Album: Aurora
Genre: Indie Pop
Label: Unsigned

This experience was that rare thing – a band I’d never heard of, whom I suddenly couldn’t wait to hear everything by after two or three songs. Hailey, It Happens have fashioned a gorgeous piece of musicianship with Aurora, which beams with the luminescence and grandeur of its title, using careful programming and heartfelt vocals to be at once banal and remarkable.

“I Gave Her My Heart, She Gave Me A Pen” opens with a beautiful piano, immediately setting a graceful and elegant tone. The percussion (as with much of the record) is sampled, which gives it an almost charming, base edge. This is mixed with some sweeping, distressed string samples which add a contrasting sense of unease, or even desperation. The vocals are beautiful – perfectly pitched, restrained yet emotive. All this works to create a gorgeous opener with huge appeal – soft enough to compel the chart types, yet individual enough to attract more alternative fans.

Second up, “Invincible” has a thorough sense of adventure. It hints at underlying chaos in a way, the piano meandering about the meditative lyrics. It’s a slightly more rousing call to action than its predecessor, sounding compelling and exhilarating in equal measure. A funky electro line adds a touch of clarity, which in turn helps reshape the tone for an optimistic ending.

“Aurora” is the title track, and fittingly so. It’s a mass of layered electro weaves and atmospheric throes, temperate piano soothing Chris Cleary’s vocals as he croons gently along. The lyrics are simple and romantic, and a barely-audible chorus in the background enriches everything with touching aplomb. In fact, luminous may be the adjective I’m looking for. The song is beautifully mixed, with each individual strand bringing its own indelible piece to the whole.

As things progress, “The Golden Age of Radio” doesn’t have quite the same clarity as the other songs. The electro vibe for instance seems a little out of sync, yet defies itself to evoke a lush, tender effect. As a whole, it’s kooky and bright – the midsection is more inventive, with a nice bridge that builds over piano thrills and rumbling percussion. The overall effect is one of intense reflection, spurring the listener to lose themselves in the ambling music. The same is true of “Brighter,” a slightly slower number which follows. It feels instantly sentimental – the staccato motion at the opening hints at the sense of remorse expressed in the lyrics, while the introduction of quirkier, demanding samples thereafter vividly capture the anguish evident in the words. It picks up in pace after the chorus, mixing the various elements and refrains together to become steadier and more arresting.

“I’ll Do Anything” is relatively cheerful in instrumentation, despite the slightly downcast subject matter. There’s a sharp electro-style undercurrent, layered during the chorus with backing vocals which gives the song the beautiful air of being drenched in strings. It’s a soul-searching song, the effects in the background illusory and charming to detract from the tone of the lyrics. This delicate mood continues on “Hurricane,” which ends the album on a waft of sumptuous instrumentation. It’s a kaleidoscope of interweaving keys and vocals and a fitting end to the album, appearing bright, melodic, and full of promise. Something in the music makes the song feel almost nostalgic, as though part of a distant world untouched and untarnished. An echoing key note in the midsection adds to this, conjuring a dreamlike quality on which the album plays out lightly.

Succinct, creative, and emotive, this is a truly gorgeous record. It’s charming and delicate, the music capturing every inch of the love and attention that went into shaping it. Despite the abundant programming, it somehow manages to sound natural – as though the band started with one sound and let it grow and evolve by itself. This could be one of its strongest points, as through the artificiality of the music, one can discern genuine heart and soul, which makes the album that little more human and accessible. A divine distraction indeed.

Score: 9/10
Review written by: Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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