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Shaina Hayes challenges winter melancholy with her own blend of modern folk rock on the circling “Sun and Time”

11 January 2024, 11:00 | Written by Cassidy Sollazzo

On the second single in advance of her upcoming sophomore LP, Shaina Hayes’ crisp and gutting “Sun and Time” is as much a retrospective as it is a foretelling

We’re now sufficiently into January, inching towards the peak of the gloomy mountain that is winter, with summer feeling like a distant memory. For many of us, winter is a time of both retrospection and anticipation. Often, this type of looking-back-while-looking-forward coping mechanism encompasses us in an echo chamber of pseudo-nostalgia. Canada’s Shaina Hayes has garnered all of that lost energy on her latest single, “Sun and Time", which electrifies the twangy indie folk from her debut LP, coax a waltz.

“Sun and Time” sets a relaxed and lazy tone from the outset, opening with stripped down guitars (a mix of acoustic and refined electric), bass, and bare bones kit set to a sauntering 4/4 beat. The instrumentation accompanies Hayes’ crystal clear vocals, which alternate between double and single track, adding the effect of two Hayeses at the mic, sometimes harmonising, other times singing identical melodies. The instrumentation builds as the track continues, with drums adding more riffs and fills through the second verse. Electric guitar roars into a release of distortion at the final chorus, a much anticipated explosion coming off the refined tension of the rest of the track.

Lyrically, “Sun and Time” is as poetic as it is literary. It’s clear from the opening line that Hayes is talking to someone specific, someone who’s hit hard by the lows of winter: “Holy weary winter this one’s something / I watch you suffering at its hand.” Their memories have passed, but that doesn't mean they didn’t happen, and can’t be looked back on fondly (“We are fading / But I can still make out your laugh”).

“When I look back,” the song’s main hook, is extremely cutting, with minor chords that emphasize Hayes’ longing. The tone switches to major when going into the more hopeful line “A couple kids the kind that sun and time will fix,” giving a satisfying, church choir level chord resolution. The difference here highlights the potential self sabotage that comes with always comparing the present with the past. While ‘time heals,’ as you pass through it, you get further away from memories that stay fixed in the past. For me, this brings to mind the ethos of Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game” - “We can’t return, we can only look / Behind from where we came” - Mitchell herself being a noted inspiration for Hayes.

The corresponding video for “Sun and Time” depicts a slice of life perspective of footage from Hayes’ summer 2023 tour. The DIY camcorder aesthetic drips with nostalgia, and the disjointed clips come together as a dream sequence of memories: from soundchecks, to beach trips, to road-side pit stops, and little joys that can happen in all of these different moments. The video emphasises the endless possibilities of summer, and the lack of restrictions it brings with it, highlighting the “sense of childlike wonder” Hayes says is so important to this new era of her music.

On “Sun and Time” Shaina Hayes combines poetic storytelling with enhanced and electrified folk to sustain listeners through the colder months.

“Sun and Time” is out now, ahead of her sophomore album Kindergarten Heart set for release on 23 February 2024. Find Shaina Hayes on Instagram.

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