Hayden Calnin – “Coward”

Hayden Calnin - Coward
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It might not seem complementary to use Snow Patrol‘s mid-aughts hit “Chasing Cars” as a reference point for an artist trying to make it in the Indie World of High Art, but 71 million views on YouTube doesn’t happen by accident. “Chasing Cars” is the kind of somber slow-burner that every sad-eyed skinny boy wishes he had written. I don’t know if Melbourne singer-songwriter Hayden Calnin would be psyched if I told him his new single “Coward” sounded like that Snow Patrol song, but it’s either that, or I tell Justin Vernon his shtick is getting jacked by some pretty Australian kid. Calnin‘s hushed, lilting delivery and woozy melodies smack of Bon Iver; but where Vernon opts for orchestral bombast, Calnin exercises a minimalist approach that has conjured mentions of artists like James Blake and The xx in discussions of Calnin‘s sound. And now Snow Patrol.

“Chasing Cars” is nothing but a two-finger piano melody, a lulling keyboard, and one hell of a brogue. But instead of that piano, Calnin sings on top of some shivering, damaged synth noises — with just a hint of Blake‘s glitch — that bring out the ripple in Calnin‘s voice. His voice is swelled into grandeur by echoes of itself on the chorus, drums buried somewhere in the mix; and yeah, it sounds an octave away from being any of the choruses on Bon Iver, but those were some good songs. Calnin‘s deubt EP, City, is as competent as “Coward,” and if you don’t like a really good Bon Iver impression, then why the hell did you listen to that Volcano Choir album?