On Milk For Flowers, Huw Evans’ fifth album as H. Hawkline, its creator slowly pulls down a wall of lyrical absurdity, backed by gorgeous, vintage art-pop. Written from the depths of grief, Evans’ armour is at times variously protective, obstructive or demonstrative but, finally, weak: hands reach through for communion, desperate to be held.
With the opening one-two punch of raucous singles ‘Milk for Flowers’ and ‘Plastic Man’, Evans lands somewhere between Sgt. Pepper and Perfume Genius, in no small part down to sturdy production from longtime collaborator Cate Le Bon. The jaunty instrumentals are just his brave face though, gradually abandoned for something more suitably sombre.
And so begins the slow dismantling of his defences, brick by brick. The fizzing box of tricks, perky piano chords and McCartney-style guitar solos, give way to acoustic guitar and gentle keys. The lyrics too are easier to decipher: ‘Like You Do’ sees him admit his heartbreak, jealous or admiring of someone handling it better, whereas ‘Mostly’ is a considered take on his own mortality. The songs eventually grow longer, losing their words completely for long stretches at a time.
Evans has talked about his urge to sing on this album, and when not struck speechless, sing he does. His voice communicates beyond his nonsensical words: ‘Denver’ finds Evans pleading for understanding like the shell-shocked soldier of the album artwork. His opening non sequitur (“Have you ever been to Denver?”) is disarmingly heartbreaking.
If the album sets out with the bravado of someone laughing off a broken nose, it ends with quiet reflection on the bloody shirt. It’s alchemy, and we’re left with a new H. Hawkline – one keener to be known, eager to be vulnerable, more comfortable with discomfort. Milk For Flowers is a miracle.
Please support Loud And Quiet if you can
If you’re a fan of what we do, please consider subscribing to L&Q to help fund our support of new musicians and independent labels
You can make a big difference for a few pounds per month, and in return we’ll send you our magazines, exclusive flexi discs, and other subscriber bonus bits and pieces
Try for a month and cancel anytime