If you’ve ever seen Elephant (aka Shane Clarke) live, you probably know what you’d expect from his debut album. On stage he cuts an almost delicate figure, sat amongst an array of loop pedals with just an acoustic guitar, playing songs that draw you in rather than reach out and grab you. By rights, HyperGiant should be more of the same – an intimate, small (in the best sense of the word) record.
So, where the hell did opener ’14 Crows’ come from? What sounds like a church organ leads into a raw vocal harmony, jaunty acoustic section and then a driving band backing – all giving flight to an absolutely fantastic song. Nor is it a fluke. If anything, ‘Overgrown’ is even better, a lush pop song that explodes into a glorious chorus. There’s clearly been some major developments in the Elephant camp of late. Or maybe not, as the album is the result of three years on and off work with producer Darren Clarke.
Whatever the process, the results are pretty stunning. After that spirited opening, the record turns it down a notch with ‘Little Ghost’ and ‘Drown My Feet’, more of what we might have expected and a lovely change of pace. It’s what makes HyperGiant such a special experience. The jarringly jaunty ‘Monster’ aside (the album’s only really misstep), it’s delight after delight and everywhere you turn, there’s a moment to treasure. ‘The Lightning and Breeze’ is an amped up electric rocker that slides effortlessly into the beautifully quiet ‘Letter’, while ‘Boiling Water Bin’ simply shimmers. A solo record in name, it feels more like the perfect meeting between a musician and producer – each driving the other to new heights.
In his notes, Elephant describes HyperGiant as a coming of age and “a more juvenile version of myself”. If that’s the case, he really must have the wisdom of the animal that shares his stage name for this is a debut full of character, imagination and style. Usually by this point in the year we’ve written off the prospect of any musical surprises until January’s rush to find the next big thing yet, with HyperGiant, Shane Clarke has given the tail end of 2015 an incredible and very welcome shot in the arm.