If great songwriting and beautiful sounds of a traditional piano are what you crave, I don’t think you’ll go wrong with People Doing Things, an eight-song collection just released this summer from Haniell. Haniell Langton who makes up the one-man band, comes from Southeast London and his songwriting is fantastic and well written. Also, if strong vocals are your thing, Haniell is your guy – this singer has some serious pipes, not to mention he has fantastic range, timing and control when it comes to belting out a tune. Haniell performed all instruments, did all the programming and his influences are as varied as Nick Drake, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.
Indeed, the album’s title track does have that Joni Mitchell feel of speedily singing the lyrics during one part and then drawing out notes for a few beats on the next. The third track “Is Dancing” is a tender, precious love song. Flirtatious and fresh with a stripped down sound of guitar and vocals with just a smattering of piano reminds me of what I’ve heard Chris Martin do without the accompaniment of his band mates from Coldplay. “Just a Little Phase” has very odd timing with again a stripped down sound of piano and vocals. Has almost a tortured jazz sound to it, whatever that may be.
“Failed Portrait of Mixed Blessings Bakery” reminded me of something I’ve heard from Billy Joel, maybe it’s the chord changes. This has a little guitar to it as well and sounded great in unison with the piano parts. “Look Up, It’s Fine” is perhaps the slowest song on the album and I haven’t quite figured out what this one is about. Unrequited love? A break-up gone badly or a mate that won’t go away after the break-up happened? I’ll let the listener decide.
“Tabard Garden” is quite poetic in its songwriting and sad love song storytelling by Tom Waits came to mind after listening. However, Haniell has a much, much clearer and smoother voice then Mr. Waits will ever have – this singer has more of a Chris Martin or Ben Folds voice.
The last track “Mono No Aware” again has that Tom Waits/Billy Joel vibe going on ala Closing Time or the Piano Man. Maybe even Ben Folds comparisons are in this one or any one of these songs from this remarkably talented singer/songwriter. The only track that has any drums or drum programming is the first song “Hearts That Beg the Question” and this one reminded me of Joe Jackson’s stuff back in the day. Again, if you’re into a stripped down sound that mostly showcases voice, piano and acoustic guitar then People Doing Things has a lot to offer.
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