5 Seconds of Summer frontman Luke Hemmings has brought a new stripped-down, psychedelic sound to the game with his first solo work, “When Facing the Things We Turn Away From.” Through his songs, he tells an intimate story of his upbringing in the spotlight of his band, with sound inspiration from bands like Pink Floyd.
Hemmings has lived a hectic life on the road since he was only 15 years old, 5 Seconds of Summer–5SOS for short–having skyrocketed into the limelight in late 2011. In the past year of being stuck in one place, Hemmings has had time to self-reflect on all of the crazy experiences he had growing up in the limelight. In a recent interview with Clash, Hemmings attributed most of his inspiration to being able to make music on his own. “There’s no one else to lean on,” Hemmings says when asked about the struggles of creating his own works. He goes on to talk about how he likes having the reassurance of his band members when creating music.
“When Facing the Things We Turn Away From” consists of 12 tracks, all written and produced by Hemmings. The first track, “Starting Line” gives a fresh start from the pop-punk sound that listeners usually hear from the 5SOS singer. It starts with a stripped down guitar and vocal, and builds up to a crescendo of guitars, drums, and a nearly yelling vocal. The lyrics reflect Hemmings’s feelings that life has passed him up while he was chasing fame, with lines like, “I wake up in the morning with the years ticking by.”
Tracks two and three, named “Saigon” and “Motion,” enter the listener into the overlying psychedelic feeling of the album. Musical inspirations like the Flaming Lips and Pink Floyd can be easily heard in these tracks. The visualizer for “Motion” also features a bleeding rainbow overlay that adds to the theme of the track. The next song, “ Place In Me,” slows the previous fast paced tempo of the album down by featuring a soft vocal from Hemmings and piano instrumental in the background. This track describes Hemmings’s past struggles in his relationships, and feelings that he was not living up to his loved ones’ expectations.
“Baby Blue,” the fifth track on the album, picks the pace back up slightly and creates a much more chill atmosphere for the listeners. Co-written by his fiancee Sierra Deaton (also a well-known songwriter and previously part of the singing duo Alex & Sierra) this song discusses the inviting idea of being lost in a “wonderland.” The title of the song is very likely a nod to the 5 Seconds of Summer frontman’s eye color, of which he is famously known for. This song is my personal favorite on the album for its calm beat, drifting guitars, and soft vocals. His voice really seems to mesh well with this song to make an almost ethereal sound.
Track six, seven, and eight, named “Repeat,” “Mum” and “Slip Away” respectively, dive deeper into Hemmings’s relationships and his regrets in the past with people like his mother or his past lovers. The tempo stays relatively low as he shows a more intimate side of himself. As a long time fan of the rockier side of 5SOS, I personally ranked these songs on the lower end of this album, just because the slow tempo was hard to follow.
“A Beautiful Dream,” the ninth track on the LP, keeps with the pop-synth sound and a haunting vocal by Hemmings. In this track, producer Sammy Witte and Hemmings included a segment of Hemmings’s mother on a voicemail with her son. The lyrics accompany the production with pleading lines like “You know that I’m just like my mother” and “Can you just stay?” as the song builds up to the LP’s crescendo of orchestral-like synth.
The last two songs on “When Facing the Things We Turn Away From” bring the album to a soft closing. “Bloodline,” also co-written by Deaton, brings the power of the previous track way down and back to a slow and emotional sound. The last track, “Comedown,” lives up to its title, as it slows and brings the album to a stop. It also brings Hemmings’s stories back to more recent memories of being trapped in his home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Being a fan of 5 Seconds of Summer’s works for six years, this album was definitely much different than I ever would have imagined. Since Hemmings is the lead singer of the band, I would have assumed his music would sound the same, but it turns out that they couldn’t be more sonically different. Although I did like the album, I will say that I am not attached to it like I have been to 5SOS’s works. Hemmings’s inspirations like Pink Floyd or Flaming Lips really shine through in his style of music and bring a whole new sound to the table.
To give a listen to “When Facing the Things We Turn Away From,” you can find Luke Hemmings on all streaming platforms worldwide, as well as buy physical copies and merch on www.lukehemmingsstore.com.