Review: Lifeboat [EP] by Hazey Jane (September Folking Around preview)

“Who are you if you’re not a mirror view of what’s come and what’s gone?”. A fitting lyric considering that while Hazey Jane named themselves after Nick Drake’s duo of tracks from 1970’s Bryter Layter, as reverb-soaked electric guitars wash across your speakers introducing you to their 2018 EP Lifeboat, you immediately know this is folk inspired by and made for the modern day.

Hailing from Hackney, London, there is an undeniably British sound resonating through Hazey Jane’s music. Indeed, the influence of those 60s and 70s troubadours such as Nick Drake and Van Morrison are there, but they are joined by the high production values and chorus hooks of Coldplay and U2, and the mid-noughties essence of Athlete and Turin Brakes; often hinting at melancholy but never truly immersing themselves in it.

The old folk tradition of story-telling is constant in Hazey Jane’s lyrics, making each song feel like a book you can’t put down. But like all the best books, there’s something which makes you come back to them. Something you might have missed the first time. On ‘Lifeboat’ it may be the sumptuous backing vocals, on ‘Mother’s Lie’ the bass line which subtly adds so much interest at carefully chosen moments, and the rolling drums and guitar solo on ‘Mirror View’ will ensure you keep from switching Lifeboat off a few tracks in time after time.

For the Folking Around attendee, the most exciting song from Lifeboat may be the live version of ‘Grow’, clearly showcasing the true quality of the ensemble. A tight, driving rhythm section allow an intense vocal and intricate lead guitar to shimmer with some real meaning. Alternately, final track, ‘Losing My Mind’ is the most obviously ‘folk’ song of the collection. Acoustic and vocal (oh, and let’s not forget the hand claps) prove surprisingly engaging throughout, maybe helped by the fairly quick tempo of the song.

While not the most challenging of listens, the quality of the musicianship and the compositional craftsmanship found on Lifeboat make Hazey Jane rise above their competitors even at this early stage of their career. I imagine we’re a year or two from Hazey Jane’s first full length effort, but by taking one or two risks they will likely produce an LP which may set them slightly further apart sonically and really capture the attention of the bigger labels. Folkin’ quality.