Opener “Waking Up Again” is a precise-yet-earthy fingerpicked indie-folk tune reminiscent of Bowerbirds or a darker Weepies; it’s a perfect vehicle for Hearn’s warm, comfortable, unaffected alto. The arrangement and her voice mesh perfectly, creating one of my favorite songs of the year so far. It’s a mature, assured track that kicks the album off in the best way possible. It may be the biggest hill on the rollercoaster in terms of excitement, but it’s not the only exciting twist and turn Hourglass has in store.
“Can’t Help Myself” is an old-school pop song built on a plunked piano and breezy vibes; “The Oak Tree” features a dramatic alt-country vocal line that’s inflected with elements of modern singer/songwriter arrangements–note the motifs playing in the background of the chorus, a solid pop songwriting element. “Please Don’t Take My Love” starts with electronic beats before seguing into a low-slung ballad with anthemic touches (reverbed vocals!). With that, you’ve made it a third of the way through the album. (Please keep your hands inside the vehicle.)
The rest of Hourglass settles into a piano-fronted singer/songwriter vibe, from dramatic lead single “Volcano” to the gentle “Annie” to the earnest “Long Summer.” Throughout it all, Hearn’s vocals are engaging, enveloping, and compelling. Her songwriting is a strong foil–the melodies never become cloying or maudlin, and the structures seem bright and fresh. But it’s Hearn’s vocals that shine most in Hourglass. If nothing else, you must check out “Waking Up Again,” but I highly recommend the whole album.