Ones To Watch: Hip Hatchet

Music quiz time! I’m thinking of an artist. They’re a folk artist – think great melodies, close vocal harmonies, and needless to say some good ol’ finger-picked guitar. Here’s the clincher: they’re not from Portland, Oregon, but they have relocated there. Who am I thinking of?

I guess I’m hoping your response was Fleet Foxes, which would be wrong. Something tells me a whole bunch of you thought it was probably Hip Hatchet - seeing as that’s the title of the post, and all – which would be exactly right. The point is that there are more than a few parallels you can draw between the two of them. One big difference is that Hip Hatchet is more or less a solo project: the work of one Philippe Bronchtein.

Besides sporting a enviably majestic beard, Philippe moonlights as the pianist for Balto (whose album “October’s Road” is well worth a lesson) and knocks out feet-twitching electronica as Bearplane. His debut album as Hip Hatchet, “Men Who Share My Name”, had a very successful self-release back in May 2010, and has just had a re-mastered re-release on Gravitation Records. The whole thing was conjured by Philippe from his experience of the ’09-’10 Vermont winter, which I gather was pretty damn bleak. It really shines through on the atmosphere of the record: it oozes the warmth and intimacy of a log-cabin fire-side sing-along.

Although the composition and orchestration is all Philippe’s work, he is joined by various companions on the actual recording (the apparently mononymous Amelia’s vocal harmonising being a particular stand-out). Even so, the tracks are dominated by his rich bass-baritone. I suspect it will have a touch of the Marmite about it (Does Marmite exist in the states? Basically, you love it or hate it.). To my ears, it’s great, but then I’m biased: it sits in pretty much exactly in my own vocal range, so I can actually sing along for once. Don’t get me wrong: he sounds almost unimaginably better than I do; but at least I don’t have to run into my thin, warbling falseto. Trust me, folks, it’s not pretty.

A new album is underway at the moment, provisionally titled “Joy And Better Days”. In the meantime, you can check out “Small Hands” below, and hit up the links for more. Philippe commented that a lot of love went into the record; well, I think it’s going to get a lot of love right back.

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Hip Hatchet – ”Small Hands”