Kalen Hogan is precocious, to say the least. At just 17, this Australian already has the maturity of someone twice his age. His debut album, Isolation, is as serious as a heart attack, too. With its gentle, folkish sound this is also no sort of kid punk outburst. Although just shy of being an actual adult, Hogan has created a very adult album.
Hogan’s press information mentions such respected names as Jeff Buckley and Radiohead, which immediately puts him in some mighty important company. If you’re going to be associated to other performers, you might as well be compared to the best. And these are certainly a few of the greatest names mentioned in alternative rock circles.
The album, perhaps, doesn’t get any more series than one called “Help Me I’m Dying.” Built around an insistent acoustic guitar part, Hogan sounds like he’s reached desperation point. Lyrically, he sounds to be striking back against parenting (bad parenting?). “Help me, I’m dying in your arms,” he cries out during the track’s chorus. It’s a harsh emotional cry for help, yet it also includes a really tasty electric guitar solo.
Although very few inclusions on this album can be termed rock and roll. Certainly not hard rock. Yet “Not Even A Friend” does have a driving beat, with plenty of pounding drums and electric guitar on it. It sounds like Hogan likes someone, albeit from a distance. He can’t imagine a relationship, though, because this person isn’t even yet his friend. About halfway through the track, some real crunchy electric guitar comes into the mix. It doesn’t totally rock out, but it gives the album something to contrast with all the softer stuff before and after. The album closes with another rocker (albeit one on the softer side) titled “Beliefs.” Again, it has far steadier beat driven than much that comes before it. Whether the guitars are amped up or not, though, Hogan’s voice is never much louder than a soft and mellow croon.
The album opens with “Stoned And Cold,” which makes for an extremely quiet manner to kick off an album. It’s little more than Hogan and an acoustic guitar. Hogan sounds hurt and lonely while singing it. Vocally, Hogan goes up to a really nice falsetto part in places during this one. He really has a lovely voice, which he’s able to manipulate toward wherever the song needs to go. “Last Breath” is another basically acoustic guitar song. While acoustic, it’s still nevertheless intense. Nothing Hogan performs on this album is what one would consider light material. He’s eventually joined by electronic instrumentation on it.
It’s difficult to remember an album this serious by one so young. Then again, one imagines he’s always been a serious guy. He’s just been waiting to let his musical skills catch up with his deeply emotional personality. There have been some mighty dopey albums released over time by supposed adult musicians, so it’s always good to hear a young person that’s got a lot of it figured out so early. Let’s hope much of the sadness expressed throughout these eight tracks is mainly teenaged angst. However, Kalen Hogan does sad so well, more of the same isn’t such a bad proposition, either.