Darren Hart, more commonly known as the multi-instrumentalist Harts, gained recognition with his debut album Smoke Fire Hope Desire in 2016 and is now taking the meaning of the one-man show to the next level (though he does perform with an incredible band, it must be said). The musical blend of the Indian-born and Australia based artist has earned the adoration of fellow musicians, from Questlove to lthe beloved Prince, who sadly is not around to listen to Hart’s much anticipated sophomore album.
His new album – which dropped unexpectedly earlier this month – is Queens, Kings & All Big Things, a skilled reference to a broad spectrum of genres including Funk, Jazz, Pop, and Rock, which the talented artist recorded and self-produced in his bedroom studio.
The short intro – a cacophonic mix of psychedelic effects, church bells and a fuzzed out radio announcement – sets the mood for the equally divers Queens, Kings & All Big Things. The opener “Ain’t Nothing On Me” is loaded with bass heavy funky pop and makes it hard to keep your feet from moving along to the danceable beat. Harts is alternating between bouncy rap parts and singing over layers of music varying from a horn section, well-placed synth lines, to a noisy electric guitar solo. The manically fast shredding and its sound-distorting pedal make it almost sound like something out of an old video game.
“Millionaires” on the contrary, comes with a laid-back slacker attitude. Taking a step back from the wild experimentation of the previous track, it counts more into the pop genre than to funk. Its catchy sparkling tune and good-mood vibe ache to be played at all of this year’s beach parties. Also holding a spot on the list of summer tracks is the reggae influenced beat and Harts high-pitched chorus on “21&19”. An electronic organ gives the mellow song extra spice as it gently surfs up and down on the dynamically shifting waves of synth tunes.
In comparison to his last LP, Harts seems to be more eager to use the synth, which works to mixed effect. “Pearls” bursts from minimal verses with deep notes into synth-loaded choruses, which drown in the excessively layered sounds. The synthesizer also feature freely in the bouncy “Shake Ya Pants”. Its early 90s G-Funk-era beat meet Bruno Mars-like funky charts RnB and peak in a loud EDM drop, which aggressively cuts through the otherwise smoothly running song.
At more than six minutes, the “Queens, King & All Big Things” fuses an elaborate trumpet solo, a female lead voice and echoing background vocals to a single with an unhurried stoner-vibe. The trippy psychedelic bridge with loud 50s horror movie sound effects melts surprisingly seamlessly into a Hip Hop influenced drumbeat. An equally creative melange can be found in the closing track “Days Gone By”. It starts off with a slow synth tune and soft echoing vocals that could also be performed by any Shawn Mendes or Zayn Malik, but of course this is not how a Harts song works. He bursts out of the commercial tune with a distorting radio malfunction sound and ends his second album on an orchestral cacophony getting faster and faster until it is almost unbearable…. and just when every listener’s heart is beating in their throat, Harts releases all of tension in one last synth heavy chorus. Genius.
Queens, Kings & All Big Things is an eclectic combination of different styles, proving the impeccable songwriting skills of Darren Hart once again. He grew to the challenge of self-production and bent the boundaries of his creative freedom.
Harts melts genres together without losing their individual sound; like somehow managing to mix all the colours of the palette without getting a bland brown shade, instead delivering a rainbow of melodies. This kaleidoscopic listening experience can be twisted and turned, listened to again and again, and will not become dull. Harts constructs his songs with such a wide spectrum of instruments, that with each listen it appears, you discover new parts of the song. This creativity, and the courage to play with new techniques, enforces the comparison with Prince’s experimental peak in the 1980s. Harts’ new album is incredibly groovy and truly one of this year’s Big Things.
And word is, he’s already got another album on the way for the start of next year… and that’s got us very, very excited.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Queens, Kings & All Big Things is out now.
Catch Harts on his Australia tour. Head to his Facebook Page for more details.
Nov 22 – Anu Bar, Canberra
Nov 23 – Factory Theatre, Sydney
Nov 24 – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
Nov 29 – Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Nov 30 – Torquay Hotel, Torquay