Whether he’s singing about road trips, love, or childhood memories Paul Hatem will take you somewhere else. His new album When I Get Old encapsulates the vibrancy of youth, the mysteries of memory, and the healing power of time. Hatem has spent most of his adult life quietly writing songs in New England, performing with his acoustic band Arl-Lex Five and Dime, and for his loyal local audience. Lately Hatem’s audience has been growing along with his catalogue of unique songs. Hatem’s songwriting is on another level, often blending poetic imagery with his personal experiences. Most of Hatem’s songs tell a story creating the perfect atmosphere for the melodies of folk to come in and amplify each song’s meaning. When I Get Old will inspire you to dive back into your youth and explore the memories that made you who you are.
The fact that Hatem has written music for his own enjoyment and pleasure lends itself to his distinct artistry. Most of the songs on When I Get Old are embedded with humor and personal touches of Hatem’s that make each song feel personal and intimate. Hatem has developed a style all his own that makes you feel like you not only know him but can relate to him too. As personal as some of his tracks are they are equally relatable. Hatem has the rare ability to find the universal truth in whatever subject he’s singing about. He never shies away from being honest, he uses his melodies to to lean into it. He keeps his vocals emotionally restrained which adds to the quiet power of his words. He can play into the warmth of his music or the soft breezy nature of it depending on what each song needs. That’s the trait that stands out the most to me about When I Get Old, is that it feels like Hatem is collaborating with the song itself. No melody is out of place and each track evokes a specific set of emotions and tones. The production is crisp and well thought out, using backing vocals as needed, and backing off when its time for Hatem’s voice to shine.
Hatem beautifully chronicles his childhood on When I Get Old. My favorite songs on the album are the ones plucked from Hatem’s memories. Title track “When I Get Old” is one of my favorite songs from the lyrics to the composition of it. It starts off sounding like Hatem is singing into an old-timey microphone or radio before it goes into bouncy melody. Hatem spends most of the song talking about all the things he’s going to do when he gets old. This perspective struck me because it feels like Hatem is reserving all these desires for old age. Almost like he only has permission to behave a certain way when he is old, which is belief a lot of us share. “When I Get Old” was inspired by the old men he used to see as kid that smoked cigars and laughed loudly. You never know what will leave a lasting impression, Hatem showcases that beautifully with “I Wish Mom Would Come.” Inspired by the days that his mom was late to picking up him and his brothers from the YMCA, “I Wish Mom Would Come” is a wistful tale of childhood longing.
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When I Get Old employs vivid imagery, evocative lyrics, and dreamlike settings to take you elsewhere. What stands out to me the most about Hatem’s music is how it is a mere extension of his rich inner world. Its rare to get such an intimate glimpse into the mind of someone else, Hatem expresses himself with beauty and ease. His honesty permeates how his music sounds and feels. This rawness allows his music to come to life and live on in anyone who listens to it. Hatem has spent most of his time developing his unique vein of artistry that sets him apart from other artists.
If you’ve been struggling to relax or are in the mood to feel inspired listen to When I Get Old. It will uplift your spirit and at the same time it will make you think of your own childhood experiences. Hatem’s lyrics fill up whatever space you’re in creating an otherworldly atmosphere that you can’t get enough of. There are no misses on this album, I can’t wait to see what’s next for Hatem and what else he has up his sleeve. Don’t miss it!