REVIEW: Lou Hayter – Private Sunshine

It’s fair to say I’ve been looking forward to this one. Lou Hayter has kindly been dropping single after single over the last few months, so we already know what to expect. Now that Private Sunshine is no longer private, we have the full album and can treat ourselves to five new songs. Is it going to break new ground? No. Is it going to perfectly soundtrack the start of summer? Yes. We don’t give ratings here at Picky Bastards but Private Sunshine scores a Metronomy’s The Bay out of ten on the sunshine scale.

Lou’s debut solo album is a homage to all the unfashionable bits of 80s pop that all ‘serious’ music fans love but don’t want to admit in case they get exposed as Smooth Radio listeners (you’ve had it on the car, belting out the chorus with the windows down, admit it). Sure everyone from Dua Lipa to The Weeknd is bringing the 80s back, but it takes the ice-cool keyboard player from your favourite 00s band to bring back the once ubiquitous saxophone solo, Steely Dan and the sweeping jingly bit from the intro to the Style Council’s ‘Long Hot Summer’. And while we’re on the subject of that saxophone solo – if you weren’t already convinced that David Bowie had superpowers, he’s been resurrected to perform here. Private Sunshine is Lou Hayter’s tribute to all the music she’s loved and has been influenced by in her life, from yacht rock to electro to acid house and all the brilliant pop in between.

When you’re already familiar with half the album from singles previously released, there’s always a concern that the other half won’t stand up. Thankfully the irresistible Madonna meets Fatima Yamaha of ‘What’s A Girl To Do?’ and the sad electro Prince of ‘Cold Feet’ are here to put paid to any such concerns. ‘Still Dreaming’ and ‘This City’ are as close as those who can remember are going to get to reliving new rave in 2021. The latter appears to take a harder turn with the opening beat, before softening into a Pet Shop Boys-esque anthemic chorus. ‘Pinball’ takes another left turn. This song is more considered both lyrically and structurally, with a traditional steady rock 4/4 beat, synths ably replacing guitars.

Listening to the songs we’ve already heard, neatly packed in amongst their musical brothers and sisters, allows you to appreciate them in a new context. ‘Telephone’’s sex-face-inducing funky as hell two-note baseline, and the slow and subtle build of ‘Private Sunshine’ are two such examples.

The lyrics often belie the shiny sunny exterior. Yes there’s love but there’s also heartbreak. A lot of heartbreak. Other than ‘Time Out Of Mind’ (the jolliest song about heroin you’re ever likely to hear) the album could do with a touch more lyrical and thematic variation across the remaining nine songs – this may put some off, but hey that’s not going to worry fans who will still find plenty to love on this album.

Other than this, Private Sunshine has no real weak points. It’s a brilliantly strong and consistent album that leans heavily on the past without being derivative. Lou has made this writer very happy. Bring on the vinyl release in September.

Words by James Spearing

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