Michael Baker’s tenure with modern New Wave musical collective Head Fake earns him respect out of the gate. This team of seasoned musical and production professionals began collaborating years ago with the express aim of refurbishing the style for today’s listeners. His new project Hasten Mercy adopts a similar approach but breaks with Head Fake by incorporating more time-tested musical elements rather than maintaining fidelity to a special genre. Hasten Mercy’s three-song EP places a premium on melody without ever becoming too extravagant, invokes some of the same New Wave influences, but echoes of the past are rife as well.
You hear that balance achieved in the first song. “Star You Are” is a gem, a memorable single in the making, with a beguiling melody and the EP’s best chorus. Its message of self-empowerment will resonate for many listeners, I am sure, but it never hits an awkward note. Baker’s vocal sounds earnest during each line and subtly turns up the vocal intensity during the aforementioned refrain. Hasten Mercy makes liberal use of post-production effects to strengthen the material. It’s a common move but Baker’s restraint with such tools separates Hasten Mercy from far cruder contemporaries.
There’s a much more inward-looking spirit pervading “These Things”. Hasten Mercy’s songs invariably have the flavor of being sketched our rather than belabored; Baker’s music may not be entirely “conventional” but he, nevertheless, understands how to entertain listeners. The song gives me the impression his writing method consists of constructing the songs from a basic rhythm track and “These Things” seems illustrative of that method.
Listen to Hasten Mercy on Spotify. Hasten Mercy · Single · 2021 · 3 songs.
Hasten Mercy closes the self-titled EP with “I Break Everything”. The title alone threatens a dour, self-pitying dirge that wearies listeners less than a minute in but that isn’t the case at all. It’s a final stylish gem from Hasten Mercy, the EP’s most condensed example of its artistry, and largely obeys the template established by the first two tracks.
It’s impossible to say where future iterations of this project may lead. Baker’s talents are substantial enough that he can pursue multiple directions from this point forward. His commitment to the tracks is clear – nothing here exists in half-measures. Hasten Mercy’s first three songs are a taste of what’s to come but, even if we heard nothing else from this project, it’s worthwhile and demands repeated listens.
It serves as an example too. It shows the enduring value of basic components such as melody, ever elusive and subjective honesty, and discipline. The latter is especially crucial. These songs never overstep their borders or pretend to be something they are not. Hasten Mercy’s self-titled EP doesn’t even clear the ten-minute mark but that doesn’t matter. It packs more into its brief duration than releases twice or three times its length.