Album Review: Jimmy Hickmott – Nice Try Sunshine

by Thomas Blake

In these days of ice bucket challenges, off-the-peg festival anthems and glamping it seems we have forgotten how to celebrate the summer on its own terms and enjoy it for what it is: a time of warmth (both literal warmth and the other kind), a time to talk and drink cider and be outside. Lucky for us we have Jimmy Hickmott to remind us. His debut album Nice Try Sunshine seems to have been designed to prolong the dwindling summer, to eke out every bit of positivity the year has to offer.

Opening track Devil’s folder is a neat, brisk summation of Hickmott’s mission statement with its story of an escape from the city to a bucolic idyll, punctuated by a horn section Belle and Sebastian would be proud of. But it is on Follow Me that Hickmott really hits his stride: it’s a hazily jaunty gem of a song with a shuffling beat, and like Proust’s madeleine it conjures up involuntary memories of past summers. For me this means days of student housing and cheap cars, trips to the coast listening to tapes of Alfie or the first Badly Drawn Boy LP as an antidote to all the grim drum and bass doing the rounds at the time. For other listeners it will recall different things, but I defy anyone not to feel at least a tiny bit nostalgic in one way or another.

The rest of the album reinforces this feeling, but never in a repetitive way. Go To Bed is altogether rockier (albeit a handmade kind of rock with its handclap percussion and dapper little guitar motif) and I’ll Be Around is insanely tuneful, a folky singalong with a call and response section providing a sense of camaraderie.

Pouring Rain and Teacher contain the clearest nods towards one of Hickmott’s biggest influences, Paul Simon. The latter even comes with video that is a direct homage to Call Me Al. But it is not all sweetness and positivity. There is enough self-doubt and pensiveness in songs like Last Night to ensure that the record manages to dip the occasional toe into autumn, and Stamp Both Your Feet is a lyrically acerbic put-down. And that’s where Nice Try Sunshine’s genius lies: in its ability to exist on the edges and boundaries of things – either emotions or seasons or musical genres – and to do so self-consciously but without ever being too conceited or too clever.

Nice Try Sunshine is out now on Marketstall Records