Maybe it's the economic crisis, but it was with a sense of resignation that I plugged in to listen to Humphrey - a 30-year-old from Stoke-on-Trent: another singer-songwriter, another piano man, more power ballads, more maudlin navel gazing... Enough already. If I want doom and gloom I'll watch the Bloomberg. It was encouraging to see that he doesn't look miserable - he's blond, he surfs - and he has one of the most relaxed vocal deliveries you'll hear. You can understand why The Sunday Times compared him to Soft Machine's Kevin Ayres, whose doped-out vocals encapsulated the laissez-faire attitudes of the Sixties.
This debut EP is not without fault, however. It's a little overproduced for my taste, and it was a surprise to learn that the normally restrained Mercury-Prize-nominee Ed Harcourt produced it, as well as Humphrey's forthcoming album. The songs are defiantly upbeat in tempo, driving rhythms and a nice line in rock piano in place of guitars. It reminded me more of early Keane circa 2004 than traditional singer songwriter fare and was all the better for it.
A refreshingly unpretentious new act for whom major label interest seems a given. Economic doom and gloom, or not, you'll be hearing a lot more about Humphrey in 2012.