After releasing his first two singles in 2020, Sydney, Australia-based singer/songwriter M.(Mikhail) Hofmann has just completed his debut album titled Lavender Sleeping. Hofmann wrote the songs and played all the guitars along with vocals, with Tim McArtney on bass and Charlie Finn on drums (except for two tracks, where the drums were played by Harry Day). David Andrew added piano, organ and synths on three songs, while Charlie Finn sang harmonies, added percussion and played all harmonica. The core trio cut the basic tracks together to get that “live energy” with overdubs added later.
Hofmann says his music is “bursting with layers of Heartland Rock and Americana with indie rock elements, peppered with nostalgia and self-reflection; ’80s guitar tones blend with synthesizers and organs, and a harmonica can be heard echoing in the distance.” Conceptually, Lavender Sleeping captures a certain part of Hofmann’s life: “It wasn’t intended to be that way but that's how it turned out. If someone was to ask what I have been doing for the past ten years of my life, I would hand them this record.” Recording took place at Hercules Studios in Sydney with bassist McArtney mixing through a vintage Neve console. Mastering was by George Goergiadis.
To imagine Hofmann’s sound, think about Tom Petty’s voice and music along with the jangly guitars of the Byrds, and you’d be pretty close; the opening “Old Home” is a perfect example. When Hofmann says his guitars have an ’80s tone, I assume he’s talking about Petty, R.E.M. or the many other groups that were influenced by the 12-string guitars of the late ’60s. Like most of his songs, “Old Home” has a clean and consistent arrangement with tasteful bits of Dylanesque harmonica.
“You Don’t Have To Stay” ups the Byrds jangle ante and features Harry Day on drums. This one also has strikingly Petty-esque vocal harmonies. “Rain In The Summer” starts on acoustic guitar with organ backing, before slowly adding the other instruments. Hofmann’s guitar solos are restrained and probably sketched out ahead of time, as they hit each note cleanly without a lot of unnecessary theatrics. “Percy Street” takes a quiet, folky detour in which the harmonica gets a short solo.
The title track “Lavender Sleeping” is a nice tune, though not strikingly different from what’s come before. “End of Time” fades in already playing, so I assume the boys were cranking away in the studio even before tape began to roll. This track is basically a more interesting and dynamic version of the title track with majestic chorus stabs and heartfelt lead guitar. I like that David Andrew gets a couple moments all to himself on piano and organ. Drummer Harry Day returns on “All Along” while “In The Dark” features Jy Perry-Banks on welcome pedal steel.
Any single one of Hofmann’s songs is accomplished and effective, though taken together they tend to blur into each other a bit. If you’re looking for a sense of danger you may not find it here, but Hofmann delivers beautiful songs and performances and for now that’s good enough!
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