If weather forecasts are anything to go by, Lou Hayter’s debut solo album should land amid some perfectly timed, highly belated summer weather. Not that ‘Private Sunshine’ needs any help. The record operates like a bottle of concentrated sun – one song in and you’re on holiday – while beneath its champagne-bubbled surface hovers a myriad of nods to the music beloved by Hayter, eighties and beyond.
Hayter’s long had her fingers in all the pop, funk, and French house pies, first as keyboardist for noughties new wavy New Young Pony Club, then with Air’s JB Dunckel as Tomorrow’s World and Nick Phillips as The New Sins, alongside DJ stints at clubs and fashion launches. Her first solo endeavour weaves these experiences into an album confident to resist labels like ersatz eighties or Ibiza chill.
“No sweat ‘cause we’re tight like that,” Hayter repeats on ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’. Apply that to the album and she’s correct on one, occasionally both counts: her sparkling electro-pop stays consistently tight, and sometimes too serene to raise a sweat. Title track ‘Private Sunshine’ is so laidback it almost plays backwards, like floating in a pool on a hot day.
‘Private Sunshine’ often pretends to be elsewhere – whether poolside, or someplace sunnier, or the hot hum of the pre-pandemic city – offering immediate transportation to a world many of us currently crave. The album seems encased in aspirational, diamond-hard gloss, from the disco slink of ‘Pinball’ to the way ‘Cold Feet’ runs down your back like cool water.
At times, it’s almost too glacial, too remote – saved by a litany of openhearted pop refrains, the kind that have united humans on dancefloors across the past forty years. Love fuels the album, in all its yearning iterations. The songs are populated by absent lovers (“Well I went to the club and I thought saw your face” / “This city was never as good without you” / “Now I’m walking in the rain without you”), jealous lovers (“In the days of you and I, she was always hanging around”), long-time lovers (“As the leaves on the trees turn red, they mark three years since we first met”).
But even without that lyrical emotion, Hayter’s devoted attention to the music that always gets hearts beating pays off. The album channels Gwen Guthrie, ‘Elysium’-era Pet Shop Boys, and the Hall & Oates of ‘Out Of Touch’ and ‘I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)’. A chic Moroder beat links arms with Mr Fingers’ ‘Mystery Of Love’ on ‘This City’, a tantalising hark back to covid-free life – the album was mostly finished before 2020.
And though ‘Private Sunshine’ isn’t the only record to pay homage to Steely Dan this year – St Vincent’s latest owes plenty to the band – Hayter transplants their song ‘Time Out Of Mind’ to the disco dancefloor. She completely recasts the song, the same way Poolside took on Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’, or Saint Etienne adopted his ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’.
Perhaps ‘Private Sunshine’s best example of a pop song drawn out and looped for the floor is ‘Still Dreaming’, an impeccable blend of pathos and propulsive beats, showered in eighties synth. “Why do I still dream of you?” Hayter wonders. Maybe because, as pop doyennes Blondie once reminded us, “dreaming is free” – no matter what the forecast says.