Drenched in nostalgia, Barton Hartshorn’s new album ‘Manchester Sun’ delivers moments of beauty tinged with regret.

Barton Hartshorn

‘Manchester Sun’ is the brand new album from Barton Hartshorn, and with this album he solidifies his place in the lineage of great British songwriters, delivering memorable and beautiful melodies, nuanced folk songs that pull from other genres to create something unique and progressive.

‘Manchester Sun’ sees Hartshorn return to his indie-folk roots, following a successful stint in Paris, and you can hear the evidence of Nick Drake, Fleet Foxes, and Laura Marling in the arrangements of the songs, the delivery of the biting irony of the lyrics, and the structure of the melodies. The guitar-led songs also have a hint of Americana, some songs hinting towards Bruce Springsteen in Hartshorn’s vocals. This album gives us uplifting moments, the sunshine filled ‘Semaphore Signal’ with tender and sincere vocals that reach surprising heights, and beautiful sweeping violin that captures your attention and imagination.

Listen to ‘Starter Kiss’ from Hartshorn’s ‘Manchester Sun’ album on Youtube

This album is made beautiful by its sincerity and simplicity. The arrangements are designed to give focus to the lyrics and vocals, with momentous features for Melissa Cox (Violin) and David Lewis (Trumpet), with special mentions needed for Vincent Guibert (Piano), Mimi Sunnerstam (Cello) and backing vocals from Nicki Ross. This band of friends and long time collaborators have created a delightfully organic sound that weave tales of confession and regret in this nostalgia soaked album. Songs like ‘In a House Overlooking the Sea’ and even opening track ‘Starter Kiss’ stand out with a slightly differing style to the rest of the album, creating a delicious contrast within the album that only serves to create more texture within this cohesive project. Hartshorn says these songs joined the recording process later but the album is unimaginable without them now.

‘Driving Rain’ and ‘Georgetown’ embody the regret exposed in this album, the songs in which have been drenched in nostalgia and self-reflection. Moody lyrics and plaintive melodies that give way to my favourite moment on the album in ‘Driving Rain’. The song opens up into this rhythmic and jazz-infused dance between Drums and Trumpet. That this moment sits in the middle of the album makes it all the more beautiful, sandwiched between sincere folk-driven songs. Reflecting on memories, regret, and the journey life has taken him on, ‘Manchester Sun’ is a delightfully retrospective album, pointing out beauty in simple things that you might have previously overlooked like the “golden and rare […] Manchester Sun that forever fixes us there.”

This album may be guitar-led, but it cannot be described as guitar heavy. A fresh balance is struck in each song between the instruments and vocals to create something new on each track which keeps the song evolving and avoids any sense of formula.

‘Manchester Sun’ is a triumphant release for Barton Hartshorn, displaying his innate talent for storytelling, taking us on an emotional journey with each track, and tying the project together with concurrent themes, and a cohesive arrangement style. Hartshorn’s own crooning voice is perfectly complimented by sensitive guitar playing that allows his voice to express personality and accurately deliver the story in the lyrics. ‘Long May the Clouds Reign Over Us’ is a moody end to the album with intertextual references to literature, film and pop culture, and the lingering sound of the sultry trumpet ringing in our ears long after the album has ended. 

Listen to more from Barton Hartshorn on Spotify

Readers can find Barton Hartshorn on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube, along with all the major music streaming platforms. If you’ve enjoyed this review, feel free to check out some of our other reviews and interviews. You never know who you might discover – they could become your new favourite artist!

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