I must begin by immediately conceding my bias against Kevin Hearn, a musician from Toronto, Ontario and his debut solo album Cloud Maintenance. Namely, I am upset that this person is selling something that is not brilliant. I am merely an arrogant musician who is too lazy and cowardly to record anything because I fear that it might end up sounding like this.
Don’t get me wrong, Cloud Maintenance is alright. By that, I mean you can put it on and it won’t interfere with your auditory environment, in most cases. Maybe a catchy motif here or there. An interesting, simple piano part that might grab your attention if you are not really listening to anything else. But if your environment even slightly involves paying attention – which is quite rare these days – you will notice that there is nothing original about the nostalgia that Kevin Hearn proclaims himself to feel. You will notice he is not on the “journey” he thinks he’s on. Rather, he’s sitting in one spot, dancing around his nostalgia and trying to pretend that it is something else, something magical, a “City of Love.” Really, it is just an expression of want, and a cheap one at that.
Listen with both of your ears and you will hear it.
It does not sound like he is listening to himself, but that he is simply jumping onto a feeling and trying as hard as possible to express it without reflecting upon what that feeling entails, or where that feeling will lead. I can feel him jittering on his seat with excitement in “See You Again” when he realizes that he really wants to see me again. Calm down, Kevin, I’m not going anywhere right now.
It’s not that he’s a bad musician, he has a certain control over and grace in his piano playing at times (honestly he kind of gets me in “Tell Me Tell Me”). However, perhaps he would learn to control his anxiety if he spent even more energy on his piano work, the artistic medium through which Hearn most clearly expresses musical potential. Instead, he pretends to be calm by writing generic and lyrically-lacking mellow tunes. In order to convey that he’s not completely depressed, he also throws in a few upbeat songs, like “Don’t Shuffle Me Back” or “House of Invention,” which in reality, merely express an absence or loss. Stop fooling yourself, Kevin.
As far as I’m concerned, Cloud Maintenance is only going to last as long as people are not paying attention to themselves. Surely, you might feel a bit nostalgic and get on Hearn’s level at first, but eventually you’ll be so bored that you’ll need to put on some Edward Sharpe to reinvigorate yourself, to remind yourself that you are fighting to be here, right now, and not dwelling in Kevin Hearn’s fantasy land. A land where we wait for a dead receding train which was once so full of meaning.
The funniest part is that I actually really like his music. It sounds good. That’s why I would expect so much from him. I want him to start taking responsibility for his image. But in the end, he’s not as good as his music is, so I can’t really expect anything great from him.
Anyhow, I still listened to his music and enjoyed it. So I suppose we can all be a bit inauthentic at times, and I suppose that’s why we have guys like Kevin Hearn.