Also, check out our interview with Philippe here.
“Inspire me with joy and thoughts of better days.” – Phillipe Bronchtein
I’ve been sitting on this review for a while and with good reason. Philippe Bronchtein, AKA Hip Hatchet, has created, with “Joy and Better Days”, and album that shows someone who has carefully crafted an set of songs that are deep and require dozens of listens. This album has an identity, a sound, that some people might criticize as too uniform and lacking variety, but actually is the biggest strength of the album.
It’s clear when Bronchtein was writing that he wanted to create an identity and that he worked hard to perfect a sound and a group of songs that demonstrated that sound. It’s a quickly, finger-picked folk sound with deep and lengthy lyrics to match. It harkens back to the song writers of old, who saw no need for a chorus because they were telling a story.
The guitar on this album is some of the most perfect tempoed and perfectly fit accompaniment I’ve heard. It’s perfect for the mood and tone of the album. The quiet hammer-ons, background piano and strings are perfect for lyrics like “What’s unknown is beautiful, when what we live ain’t new,/ but the warmth of other women, just ain’t as warm as you” on “Sing Me a Reprise.” It’s a melancholy song through and through, but the kind you want to listen to again and again. “Child’s Hands in Dirt” is another slow, piano and finger-picking song that seems to be written less about nostalgia and more by it.
The sound is very reminiscent to that of William Fitzsimmons, if Fitzsimmons had a strong baritone voice instead of a soft alto. It’s especially apparent in “Dark Dancer”, a faster, more melodic song. The three songs that stand out on the album are “American Charm”, the first track, that recalls a woman with lines like “The way you wear your smile is to sweet to be.” Another gem is “Misdirected Man”, an unapologetic love song where Bronchtein sings, “i ain’t got a path and I ain’t got a plan,/ But, darling, won’t you let me be your misdirected man?”
Perhaps the most interesting song is “When I Sing for Strangers”. It’s maybe the slowest, guitar only song on the album, but also the one that seems the most heartfelt and most honest. With lyrics like “Don’t forget me when you leave, but don’t let me hold you back” and “When I sing for strangers, my voice is weak and young,/ I think of your house out in the woods and the words that you forced from your lungs”, you see a songwriting who knows exactly how to craft a song that puts you into his shoes.
“Joy and Better Days” (you can listen to and get the album here) is an excellent summer night album, with meandering guitars and a beautiful baritone voice. With great songwriting, great accompaniment and clear honesty, Hip Hatchet and Philippe Bronchtein should be making music for years to come, or at least we can all hope.
This video is about a past EP, but gives you a good idea of the sound of Hip Hatchet.