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Luke Hemmings' EP 'boy' Captures Nostalgia Amidst Growing Pains

Abby Anderson May 12, 2024

In the years since his stunning solo debut album When Facing the Things We Turn Away From, Luke Hemmings embarked on back-to-back years of sold-out tours with 5 Seconds of Summer, finding himself in some of the world's busiest and most vibrant cities. While it might seem that loneliness would be scarce in this environment, Hemmings found himself grappling with an unexpected sense of isolation amidst the unfamiliarity and inherent humanity of his surroundings. In between tours, Hemmings relocated to New York City, and amidst its glittering skyscrapers and bustling streets, felt compelled to translate his complex emotions – his "ache," into music.

The result? A 7-track EP, Boy, released on April 26 under Arista Records. The record bends the alternative genre to mold its melancholy sound, dark and glimmering, reminiscent of the twinkling city Hemmings found himself in during the composition of the project. Production from WFTTWTAF collaborator Sammy Witte serves as the perfect complement to Hemmings' introspective musings, providing mesmerizing alternative production that has already become a staple in Hemmings' solo ventures.

Illustrating the ache of growing pains, the existentialism of time lost to the death of your childhood, and the lifeline of connection in an increasingly disconnected world, Boy is a compilation that is incredibly nostalgic to longtime fans of Luke who lived the experiences of these songs alongside him. As a complete work, Hemmings' second solo endeavor is deeply personal, emotionally freeing, and subtly profound.

Stand-out tracks: "I'm Still Your Boy," and "Benny"

My favorites: "Close My Eyes," and "Promises"

Boy tells the story of seeing your whole life in front of you while still grappling with the demons, mistakes, anxieties, and dreams of your past. Restless, sonorous, and acoustic-driven, "I'm Still Your Boy" opens the album with a tangible nostalgia for Luke's younger self, seen through the eyes of his adult self. Between Hemmings' vocal resilience and emotionally-charged lyricism ("I can't dance around it, I'd better be yours/I still ain't Chicago, the things that I miss"), the second verse on this track is a stand out on the project.

The chorus of the project's lead single, "Shakes," is a wistful haze of longing, with Hemmings' easy falsetto echoing: "Honey, I just wanna be yours, wanna be yours/Inside your dreams tonight/Oh no, oh no/Can't shake this feeling." The atmospheric production leans into a sound defined by Hemmings' own "Saigon" and "Baby Blue," with impressive vocal layering and shimmering low-tone guitar synths. Later in the chorus, the lyrical switch to "Boy, I just wanna be yours" beautifully depicts Luke's building desperation and desire for emotional intimacy in his isolation.

While many of the tracks on Boy are distinctly crafted from Luke's personal growth, "Close My Eyes" and "Benny" emphasize the most human of fears: our inescapable past and our uncertain future. Named after his older brother, "Benny" is written about the deep-rooted anxieties Luke has lived with spending the last twelve years of his life living thousands of miles from his family in Australia. From "Watching from the outside/Should I be on a plane back home?" to "Living on the sidelines/What am I supposed to do?," this track holds a lot of guilt and uncertainty in its lyrics. "Close My Eyes" also has its fair share of anxiety hidden under its pulsing beat and heavenly vocals. Hemmings finds the words to console anyone who has ever held on to the comfort of the past even as it slips away, hoping it gives the strength to embrace the next chapter: "I won't look back until it's gone/Everything that I try to bury/And all the little deaths that set me off/I can't close my eyes." This track has risen to be my second favorite in Luke's entire solo discography, right behind WFTTWTAF closer "Comedown." If you have even an inkling as to how much I love "Comedown," you know how massive of a compliment it is for "Close My Eyes" to be sitting in second place.

To the casual listener, album-closer "Promises" gifts an absolutely stunning melody, mesmerizing production, and a messily romantic love story. But to those of us who have stood by Luke Hemmings across his full career, watching him grow from a hopeful teenage boy basking in the joy of his dreams coming true to seeing him struggle through depression, loss, and reinvention, "Promises" is a track that nearly brings me to tears with every listen. He emerges as healed, hopeful, and deeply grateful for where he's arrived despite all the pain of his youth. With his first solo tour, Nostalgia for a Time That Never Existed, on the horizon, all I can imagine when I hear "Promises" is the tangible gratitude I'll feel to sing the last few lines of the album along with Luke: "It's the promises/We make 'em every time/And every word you said/I hang on every line/I'd do it all again/I guess I just feel better around you."


Keep up with Luke Hemmings and future releases here.