As in all aspects of life, it behooves us to take positives from every situation, even the bad ones. The last two years have been full of shock and trauma, let-downs and losses but throughout new things have continued to emerge. Babies are born, new leases on life are discovered and old passions are reignited.

For Michael Baker, this pandemic era represents the ending of a 23-year hiatus from music to release the self-titled debut of Hasten Mercy. The former Head Fake member stepped away from music in 1995 for a career in law and to raise a family. The musical gene was passed on and Baker turned his focus to producing his singer-songwriter daughter Chloe's project Bitter's Kiss. Through that project, Baker was introduced to several pop world stalwarts and the inspiration for a new solo project was fuelled. Hasten Mercy has the base elements of New Wave and 80s synthpop with trip-hop and dream pop influences from the past two decades filtering in. The record is moody yet positive. At times introspective, he also offers up advice to his daughter and other aspiring young people.

The punchy opener 'Star You Are' pulses with the energy of early Depeche Mode with piano subbing in for robotic synths on the initial main melody. Baker croons smoothly over an ever-evolving set of sequencers, giving words of encouragement to a young soul trying to find themselves. Playful, bouncy, danceable, uplifting. 'These Things' slows down the mood to a throbbing trip-hop vibe. A sauntering, snap-accented beat and warm synths are joined by fingerpicked guitar. Baker sings a catchy remorseful ballad. The closer 'I Break Everything' is an open omission set to nostalgic electric piano. He tracks his record of misdeeds and acknowledges with enlightened self-awareness.

Hasten Mercy is a return by someone who knows his craft well. The songs have the catchiness of pop music but with far more musicality and compositional depth than most pop artists today. Those yearning for a great reinterpretation of 80s synthpop should seek this out.