Colin Dieden is a long way from home. The Kansas-born singer/songwriter landed in Southern California during the early years of the 21st century and hooked up with what would soon become The Mowgli’s by 2010. The Mowgli’s enjoyed an impressive ten-year run as one of the region’s foremost musical exports before Dieden decided to step away in 2019. He regrouped and launched a solo career under the guise of Little Hurt.
The project’s name looks back at his childhood nickname playing baseball. Friends dubbed him “Little Hurt” in honor of onetime Chicago White Sox outfielder Frank “Big Hurt” Thomas. Adopting the name for his solo efforts is a nod to his past, for sure, but there’s more to it than that. It’s a signal of Dieden’s yearning to reclaim his past and that initial impulse that drove him to create. Little Hurt’s new album Lovely Hours is the story of a songwriter far removed from his youthful roots, but it’s also a chronicle of an artist who’s never forgotten the forces that shaped him.
Opening with the title song catches your attention. Often artists position these songs as “statement” tracks that sum up an album’s central theme for the listener. “Lovely Hours” fits the bill. There are later elaborations on the release’s main subject, love, and the price we pay for falling, but this cut sets the stage for everything to come. It steps brightly, propelled by percussion snapping us to attention, and Dieden’s singing gets under your skin fast. It likewise has one of the album’s best lyrics, especially its opening verse.
A cluster of glittering guitar opens “Modern Art” before segueing into a sleek up-tempo pace. It’s a portrait of broken love driving the speaker deep into dissipation. He depicts the dissipation with specific details such as “I can pretend that we’re okay/doing the last of your cocaine”, but he also reflects it in judiciously selected images layered throughout the lyrics. Dieden plays it straight as well and never lets his performance slide into cheap bathos. There’s tough-minded dark comedy underlying the song title that’s a hallmark of these songs overall.
Dieden opted for “I Can Do Better Than You” as the first single off Lovely Hours and the video for the track makes it an one-two punch you won’t soon forget. The video is traditional in many respects, it’s a performance clip, but it’s also an extravaganza of colors. He ends it with an intelligent touch viewers will appreciate. The song is a pulverizing piece of pop rock that never takes its foot off the gas and sweeps listeners away with its verve.
One of the catchiest vocal lines comes with “Laughing at Myself”. It’s one of the album’s darkest moments as well, so the contrast makes it stand out all the more. “Pineapple Pizza” is a personal favorite for Dieden according to notes going with the songs and many listeners will understand why. Attentive listeners who latch onto the lyrics will be especially pleased with how he ties in a seemingly insignificant detail into a larger illustration of what ails his romantic relationship. Little Hurt’s Lovely Hours is free from filler and its best songs put it over the top as one of 2023’s most fulfilling releases.