Review: Barton Hartshorn Shares Great Expectations on ’Not What I Expected To Hope For’

Barton Hartshorn/Not What I Expected To Hope For/BFD/Spozzle & Suxeed
Four out of Five Stars

An enigma even in his native Great Britain, Barton Hartshorn was initially embraced by the French—Hey, they loved Jerry Lewis, didn’t they?—and for good reason. A literate auteur in the time-honored tradition of articulate British rock, he specializes in personal and poignant story songs that bring with them an instant engagement. 

It must have been my lucky day, he muses on the opening track “Rumours.” Your shoelace was undone, but I could not save myself from one slip of the tongue.

Like Ray Davies, Scott Walker and Brian Ferry, Hartshorn isn’t afraid to bare his inner emotions, and while his melodies are more straight-forward and geared towards immediate accessibility, the songs that grace the ironically titled Not What I Expected to Hope For reflect an essential pop pastiche that finds him delivering his tunes with both craft and creativity. The percolating pulse that underscores the thoughtful “Forbidden Days” and the shimmering sounds of “The Gold Black Vacuum of Your Past” add a decided depth to his delivery, suggesting that Hartshorn is, in fact, a significant artist who’s been able to transcend any temptation to simply rely on shallower sentiments.

Songs such as “Did I Let You Down?,” “Message Back to You” and “Still Life” combine whimsy with reflection in equal measure, while tracks like “Like the Sea” and “Rumours” offer a poppier perspective. Not surprisingly then, most of these offerings lean into the light, allowing for a more effervescent and effusive stance rather than any sobering sentiments or downcast designs.

Whether or not Hartshorn can expand his following remains to be seen. First he needs to cross the Channel and conquer his home country. Once he does that, America might embrace him as well. For now anyway, Not What I Expected To Hope For exceeds expectations all on its own.

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