Today (30/03/18) sees the release of Something to Remember, the latest EP from Massachusetts-raised, indie-electronic singer songwriter Haux, real name Woodson Black. Something to Remember is the sophomore medium-length release from Black, following up All We’ve Known, which arrived in mid-2016. It’s been around eighteen months since the release of AWK, and its Black’s experiences within this time frame which have shaped up its successor. And while judging by the lyrical content of STR, these experiences may not have been the easiest to cope with, Haux has nonetheless embraced them wholeheartedly, as part of his journey to become one of the most unique songwriters of our time.
Opener Cologne contrasts the warmth of Black’s attachment to the eponymous German city with the heartbreak of a long-term relationship coming to an end. Though the track begins with nothing but a drone note to accompany Haux’s echo-laden vocals, it thrives through a gradual crescendo, ending with roaring percussion and a guitar riff that The xx would be proud of. Rather delightful for a song which is lyrically crushing. A similarly devastating cut is Ricochet. The cinematic M83-style opening is quickly cast out by a piano ballad so delicate, it would shatter if you even thought about touching it. As Black sings: “The coldest night I ever felt/I spent with you”, he reminisces on the reluctant, albeit inevitable, breakdown of a relationship. As painful a listen as it may feel, at least Haux seems to be taking some solace out of the fact that sometimes things just aren’t meant to be.
Not every moment on STR must be a sad one. The most upbeat track on the record, though still not enormously vibrant, comes in the form of Heartbeat. A song which was a year in the making, it romanticises the naivety of young love. “Listen to the heartbeat/Rushing when you hold me/Whispering that this was once our home.” Its rather refreshing to hear Black somewhat in love for once, even if its not permanent love, as we now know. Haux later rediscovers his romantic side in the surprisingly animated Touch. Lyrically, the song is about the risk associated with initial intimacy between two people. Musically, the chorus is unbearably catchy, as pulsating electronic drumbeats take over from the icy chord pattern which dominates the introduction. Ultimately, even when Haux sounds at his most vulnerable point, the results can be surprisingly ecstatic.
The final third of the EP gives us two previously unheard tracks. The first of which, Alone, is a quiet, at least at the start anyway, acoustic guitar cut. A potential salute to For Emma-era Bon Iver, the track gently floats by before, as with Cologne, reaching a powerful climax by the end, characterised by thunderous surdo drums and a reprise of the initial guitar riff, this time with a heavier setting. Over the course of the first five tracks, Haux has us on the brink of despair. Yet while the anxiety of Touch and Alone, and the heartbreak of Cologne and Ricochet felt like tough listens, emotionally, they have nothing on the EP’s closing track, Arrows.
“The foreverness of death is always the part that gets me. Its permanence hurts just as much as remembering sometimes.” This was what Haux told Nylon Magazine when asked about Arrows. It is a truly devastating tear-fest, as Haux recalls not only coping with the death of someone close but having to learn about how permanent a loss could feel for the first time. The closing lyric is a stark one: “If you leave, don’t forget/All the love that you left”. Tissues at the ready.
As personally eye-opening as these past eighteen months have been for Woodson Black, by tackling them head-on, he has enabled himself to prove the extent of his potential to the world. The result is that Something to Remember is a remarkably gorgeous listen, even if it can also be a tough one.
Ultimately, if Haux can make just eighteen months sound so elegant, fingers crossed he will be around for the significant future.