Always a dream to stumble upon a new favourite band, not least of all in unison with their release of a brand new album. Hope Darling set the mood and embrace listeners from the outset, with their beautifully immersive, heartfelt and anthemic rock project ENSO.
From the opening moments, Burning Light kicks off with a certain distorted yet melodic fullness, not unlike some of the more mainstream hits from the Foo Fighters. We then delve into the immediately poetic and powerfully emotive Don’t Wake Me Up, and that leading voice has presence and connection already, guiding us through the dreams and imagery of the song alongside deeply passionate performances from all involved. The final moments in particular repeat and loop to boldly weave that web of engagement that holds you closely.
After this, the band switch gears a little, for the piano-led yet still clearly ballad-kissed vibe of an even bigger pop-rock anthem.
Lifeline feels like a timeless arena classic, a little Coldplay-esque perhaps, devoted to its intentions with short, relatable lines and a clear sense of rising anticipation as the drums and surrounding layers gather momentum. New falsetto peaks showcase a level of versatility that’s natural and impressive. And all the more so, the band speak on the depths of the human experience in an entirely hypnotic manner.
Hope Darling turns out to be a perfectly-crafted name for this band of openly thoughtful and passionate musicians. The nine songs that make up ENSO offer a fine balance of strong musicianship, intensity and delicacy, whilst accessing those essential feelings of intimacy, longing, lostness and hope.
From Lotus we see these qualities shine, catchy riffs and a fearlessly romantic lyrical backbone. Then with Firefight we’re thrown into faster-paced, punk-rock territories, for a longer-form progression that utilises contrast brilliantly from one moment to the next.
Following this, the acoustic guitar, strings and space of Say A Prayer hit with blissful impact – juxtaposition again standing tall.
Stylish guitar-work offers an Americana vibe initially for Rain, before another soft-rock build-up blends poetry and distorted weight for a wholly enveloping listen. Then the band get appreciative and intimate again, with the help of a superbly produced and soulful guitar solo, for It Was Always You.
Finally, the melodic and ambient tones of Absolution (One Last Breath) bring us all together for a subtle yet striking degree of evolution towards a huge finish.
All at once explosive and profoundly gentle, Enso is a pleasure to lose yourself within. Not groundbreaking in style but refreshingly honest and accessible in its humility and precision combined. The warmth of the sound, and the originality of the writing, as well as the band’s clearly faultless ability to perform with unity and skill and heart, all works its magic throughout.
Well worth a few spins as the colder seasons approach.