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(Credit: Cal McIntyre/Far Out)

Music

Album of the Week: Orlando Weeks lands a bliss-bleached masterpiece with ‘Hop Up’

@TomTaylorFO
Orlando Weeks - 'Hop Up'
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The doleful month of January might seem like an interesting time to drop a splash of sunny anthems, but as Hop Up blissfully extolls, it is always azure blue skies when you’re floating on cloud nine. For me, that cloud nine happens to be a crumby home office with a rain-streaked window, but as the needle plunges into the swirling depths of Weeks’ record, he happily bustles out of the gravel track grooves in a rented convertible and bleaches the bleakness from the grey sky, colouring it in a swell of summer blue. Suddenly, the unaddressed damp spot in the corner of the room transfigures to the smell of sweet reminiscent perfume and the deary sound of hissing traffic takes on the undersong of waves down on the beach. 

“With a little post rationalising I also realise that the process of making Hop Up was a revelation,” Weeks explained in the run-up to the release. “Embracing the cloud nine ethos of the album opened my mind up to a whole area of music that I’d always consigned to being beyond my jurisdiction.” In venturing towards a loftier sound Weeks reaches exultant heights, but while his head is in the sky, his feet remain firmly on the floor, producing a record that gladly knows it’s getting carried away like an old dog lovingly leaping up on visitors.

This revelling in a revelation also extends to the making of the album in the nitty-gritty sense (if such a thing exists in the world of Hop Up). With contributions from Katy J Pearson, Willy J Healey, Ben Reed and Bullion on production duties, clearly, Weeks is evolving towards the David Bowie championed ethos of welcoming others into the fore to share in the self-fulfilling eudemonia of the creative process. 

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For an album that is all about celebrating “the now with ebullient pleasure”, this progression seems very fitting, especially considering the period of history we are slowly sliding out from under. Tracks like ‘Bigger’ are elevated to new heights as a result, in fact, it builds to a slide akin to the scissors suddenly gliding through the wrapping paper; it could slap a smile onto the face of Morrissey and make the hairs on a naked mole rat’s back stand up.

Unlike other pandemic produced records that have been dished out with the description of “dreamy”, there is no notion of studio-bound faux escapism with checklist overtures and whispery vocals on Hop Up—it has none of that manufactured feel that some of the pleasant but ultimately highly forgettable alternatives have offered. That notion of “the now” keeps it relevant, whereas other albums have sought to capture an elsewhere and another time. In short, it is far from ignorant to recognise that great times have been had by many within the recent difficulties, not just the Tory party. The album forever remains cognizant of that and celebrates it euphorically. 

The sparse sound of the record is chocked with revitalising production flourishes that keep the time spent in the sun it emanates breezing along beautifully. Anthems like ‘Look Who’s Talking Now’ hark back to the youthful melody whisked up by Rusted Roots on the track everybody likes ‘Send Me On My Way’ and David Byrne’s masterful American Utopia is another comparative touchstone that crops up in the slew of tracks that mingle of in the cacophonous mix of the same refreshing sundae.

As Weeks says himself, part of the record is “about recognising that a person or people can be your world. And if that person or people is growing up right in front of you then in a very actual way their growth is your growth.” This loving sensibility harnesses connective bliss, and that’s a smitten force to behold, best summed up by the line Weeks proclaims with his unique vocals: “Look who’s falling in love again!”