Orlando Weeks’ debut solo album A Quickening catalogued the emotions and expectations that accompany imminent parenthood: anxieties and anticipation, hopes and fears, a monumentally personal yet also an undeniably universal experience. On reflection, however, its focus was on expectancy: the small wonders of new life were left largely unspoken. As Weeks’ new reality took shape, it would be natural – expected, even – for his follow up to document what came next.
“It definitely started with the idea of wanting to fill in some of the blanks that I felt I had left with ‘A Quickening’,” he considers. “But quite quickly it turned into something broader. If I was at a crossroads with my writing, the choice was always to take the more positive and uplifting sounding step. Perhaps it shouldn’t have, but as an approach it felt surprisingly novel to me.”
As the project took shape, Weeks’ creativity offered him a sense of self-preservation as the world became engulfed by the COVID pandemic; “It sounds trite saying it but writing the record, with that philosophy in mind, did become vaguely therapeutic. And if not therapeutic then it was a wonderful distraction. It was whatever the opposite of catharsis is. I wasn’t screaming to let everything out, I was just purposefully holding on to and cultivating moments that felt good.”
The result is his new album Hop Up, its title being a buoyant, idiophonic representation of the spirit that it contains. Weeks wrote the songs at home before spending two sessions, each spanning three weeks, with the producer, solo artist and Deek Recordings founder Bullion. He helped Weeks hone in on a specific, open-hearted approach to leftfield pop: very natural, warm instrumentation manipulated in imaginative ways.
Weeks credits Bullion’s class, taste and open-mindedness, noting that “I’ve never worked with anyone who had such an identifiable aesthetic to their own music. There’s a class to what he does that I really wanted this record to be a part of.” Wildly productive, the album was completed from start-to-finish in just seven months, whereas Weeks’ previous albums and work with The Maccabees could take two to three years.
There’s a dichotomy to what the duo crafted. Hop Up is a record that’s lean and concise, with a spacious quality that counters the heavily compressed, brick wall of sound that modern alt-pop can sometimes embody. Simultaneously, its relative simplicity doesn’t feel at all minimalist. Intriguing off-kilter touches flourishes ebb and flow at every point, each time sparking an interest but never overwhelming the songs.
In that respect, Hop Up feels like a fitting addition to Weeks’ ever more increasingly, eclectic discography, each of which have taken us through life’s circuitous stages. While The Gritterman was primarily about the power of having a purpose, it also heralded life’s fading embers. A Quickening then took us to the expectations of new life, and now Hop Up celebrates the now with ebullient pleasure.
“As last year rolled on, the atmosphere of this record played a major part in me maintaining a balanced headspace,” Weeks concludes. “And luckily I’m so porous that that balance spilled out into all of the other aspects of my life too. I feel as though I owe this record a lot.”
“My hope would be that anyone listening to ‘Hop Up’ feels lighter at its conclusion than they did at its start, and I hope the enthusiasm I feel for it translates.”
Release: January 14th, 2022, Play It Again Sam/[PIAS] Australia