Friday, May 03, 2024

Luke Hemmings’ EP ‘boy’ : A Musing Note On The Silhouettes Of Nostalgia

As soon as you press play, 'boy', the highly anticipated second release by Luke Hemmings, will have each song panning out like a page of a personal scrapbook, full of stirring poetic stories that swirl in his mind about fears, change, remedying past wounds, falling in love, reconnection, and everything in between. 

This is an EP where we see how Hemmings knocked down his walls and replaced them with windows and stained glass mirrors. We're now able to peek more into who he is, who he was, and what he yearned for and find closure in that those fragmented pieces heard in 'When Facing The Things We Turn Away From' have been soldered back together for those stained glass windows: a work of beauty that is raw and real in 'boy'. 

'I'm Still Your Boy' is the piece's first track, immediately pulling us into this bittersweet and loving entrapment around his mind. This entrapment is a ruminating thought about times that he could not have with falling in love - it's about a time that would never exist with his wife, musician and songwriter, Sierra Deatonthe time of being her friend and knowing her before when she was growing up in Orlando, no timezones nor oceans between them, and having her sooner to be his safety net. It's about not necessarily envying the time others have had with her but having a yearnful opportunity to have her longer in his life. 

"I wish I was younger, so I knew the end / I'd move to Orlando, and I'd be your friend /I tore you apart to put me back again /This time zone's a bastard, and I'm wearing thin". 

For anyone who has been in love with someone who has drastically changed their life and played a part in your external healing and reconnection to yourself, and you wish that somehow the universe would've allowed you moments together earlier - this song's for you. 

This page in his scrapbook is about his love and adoration for his wife and serves as a reminder to himself and the listener that regardless of the time they didn't have together before they met, somehow, he was always going to be her boy. It's a sentiment that we can all grab onto. 

Throughout this '90s and '80s indie-pop-influenced piece, he challenges his concept of growing up and away from people and what that means by staying in touch with himself and others. We hear this in 'Shakes' the withdrawals of being away from a lover and eagerly waiting to reunite, and, in 'Close My Eyes' the acceptance of separation from the past, both good and bad, finding closure on who he was in the past and who he used to affiliate himself with to step into who he has evolved into. 

'Benny' is another one that comes to mind, and it's a song that was crafted to be melancholic, self-soothing, and centred around an aim to remedy uncontrollable change. The song starts with a crescendo of synths leading into guitar strums that sound stressed with a fuzzy bass that captures the feeling of this track. 'Benny' is named after the oldest of the Hemmings brothers: Ben. 

As Hemmings has spent more time out of Australia due to his band 5 Seconds of Summer being based in the US, living in the US with his wife now, and touring more with his band outside of Australia, there's this pang of guilt that comes from being away like that with the primary means of only being able to communicate through phone and video calls, messages, and social media. He isn't singing about being detached but disliking that he can't always be there, even though part of that reason is due to his choices. 

"Sentimental landslide / But I don't have the time to go / Will I be saying goodbye / From a dark hotel room? / Living on the sidelines / What am I supposed to do"?

The hint of people pleasing (which belongs to any sibling in any birth order) ripples through this piece as he wonders if that guilt will pass and if the fear of losing touch with his family or his absence will take a toll on them - resulting in the willingness to do whatever it takes for them. "I set myself on fire to keep you warm". That feeling matched with an unintentional disdain and envy for those who get to be in photos with his family, wishing he could be that stranger, leading to his rattling what-if as an attempt to self-soothe: "what if I never knew you, Benny"? 

Showcasing his wonder for nostalgia for a time when this looming grey cloud of guilt, sadness, and regret from being away didn't exist, while simultaneously recognising he wouldn't want to change that as it's a sign that sunnier, bluer days are there for when he is on a plane back home. 

In the latter half of the album, we step into the part of his scrapbook where the nostalgia for a time that never existed is reformed and morphed into building nostalgia for the life in front of him now. A significant turn in momentum came from remedying the past, internal and external reconnection, and shaking off the dust of guilt and worry. 

'Garden Life' takes the scrapbook into this new life - one that is full of sacred greenery, blossoming dahlias, forget-me-nots, orchids, wine-washed conversations, and tender moments in the sun. "You left a dent inside my soul".  This shoegaze meets dreamwave piece is timeless and romantic and feels like it belongs on a retro VHS tape with highlight reels of key moments between two lovers. It's the type of song you want to swim in to let it wash over you and get absorbed. "I feel most alive staring out your window / It's a garden life, you are the weeping willow / And I am alcohol, swimming through your system /Lulling you to sleep, on and on we dream."

'Garden Life' is a portrait of being present and intertwined with a lover, fusing your worlds together, making a small escape that you'll write together in your memory book. 

Hemmings ends the EP with a further appreciation of the nostalgia he has been building with his wife, the newest and most important chapter in his life. 'Close Enough To Feel You' and 'Promises' feature Deaton on those tracks, adding beautiful eye-watery harmonies that hover over Hemmings' voice. The final two songs put a spotlight on how powerful their relationship has been for the both of them, overcoming fear from the past (real wounds and ruminating what-ifs), wanting to be "the last dream inside your head", getting called out to reshape life "she said, "I hate how you're living / then pushed me against the wall", and transformation of how to show up in the relationship for the better. 

Hemmings' sense of nostalgia and what kept him in the dark spiral of depression heard in his first solo project has been warmed in the sun now. He tackled his past sense of time, self, well-being, and forms of love, resulting in this poetically gut-wrenching reflective 7-track piece that is a standout sonically and lyrically. Hemmings is pioneering himself even more so that he knows how to be a formidable songwriter by pens pain, love, and hope in a way that any audience can enjoy at any point in time. 

Now, as he enters this new chapter of his life and music career, he is creating nostalgia for a time that does exist in a way that only comes from finding yourself. We're excited to see his upward trajectory, especially with his solo tour starting in May 2024, 'Nostalgia For A Time That Never Existed', and all of the highlights from the tour! We'll see you there. 

Tyra Baker


Image: ‘boy’ Official EP Cover 

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