Review Summary: It's no daily thing.
Contrary to what music's old guard might have you believe, artistic ingenuity is not lost with this current generation of musicians. It's a stigma that has been brutally beaten to death, in no small part thanks to the incessant and falsely all-encompassing little bugger of a phrase that is the "indie" label. Those who know the scope of independent music will understand that it cannot be constrained to a singular "sound", and yet when people are referring to a particular type of music as being generally "indie", that is exactly what they are doing. It's a very dismissive attitude towards the visionaries that are running rampant across every genre that so-called "independent music" includes.
Is Andrew Hughes an independent musician? Very much so. Is he a visionary? Time will tell. But what Hughes does have with his appropriately titled debut record is a unique angle that very few other artists, if any, would approach the beginnings of their careers with. Certainly other artists have released albums that are so lo-fi they could be considered demo quality (it perhaps is not surprising that one of Hughes's primary influences is Paul McCartney, whose self-titled solo debut album was only a step above that level of fidelity/completion), and many artists have to start their careers with an album like this simply due to financial/technical restraints. But it is rare for a singer-songwriter to be as open about this type of approach as Hughes is on Andrew's Demo Tape
. He is forthcoming about the style of these tracks; with some exceptions, these aren't to be treated as full-fledged, fully mastered songs, but ideas, a snapshot of a creative and ever-working mind. We often cringe when an artist releases a collection of demos and calls it an "official" studio album, but that's because we have context with what the artist has done before/simultaneously/after those demos were recorded. There is no context to cloud your opinion of the music here, which is the beauty of it.
Hughes' style can be best summarized as a mixture of shoegaze and indie rock with some very apparent Beatle-like sensibilities and barely-tangible lyricism that flutters between the cheeky and the sardonic. I say "barely-tangible" only because the lo-fi production oftentimes renders the vocals difficult to comprehend, which is the biggest issue with the record in general. Of course, this is to be expected from what is essentially a demos' album, but given that the lyricism here has a very clever ring to it (from what I can hear, anyways), it would be nice if that were given more attention in the mixing process in further releases. This is a bit of a nitpick, however, because the moods that Hughes creates are really entertaining and cover a wide variety of different feelings, from the seemingly-relaxing-yet-slightly-unsettling instrumental "Lafayette Acoustic", to the stuttering drum-driven "Retroreflector", to "Untitled" which sounds like a lo-fi rendition of an In Rainbows
outtake. If Hughes wears his influences on his sleeves a bit at times, it still manages to work because he interweaves them all together like a creative chef; a little sampling of Fleet Foxes there, a bit of Deerhunter there, a dash of Stevie Wonder on top, etc. Never is there one song that will smack you on the head yelling about how it's a direct rip-off of some other artist. It's a testament to Hughes's creative mind that he's able to accomplish this.
As with any collection of demos, the replay value of Andrew's Demo Tape
is simply not as high as what it would be had the demos finished their metamorphoses into fully realized songs. But it's hard to imagine that it was ever supposed to be. This is an act of expression, a chance for a young artist with clear ability to show himself in the rawest possible form. It is evidence that a piece of music does not have to be gussied up and preened like a wealthy person's French poodle to convey ambition and to generate intrigue, and Hughes presenting himself in this surprisingly vulnerable way ("I'm just a guy with some demos, my dudes" -- not an actual quote but a summarization of his approach to this release...probably) is a sign of a person with serious artistic integrity. Keep an eye on Andrew Hughes in future. This man's got something.