What To Listen To – Exile by Hurts

Image: Major Label
Image: Major Label

For this weeks’ ‘What To Listen To’, I’ll be reviewing and recommending the second album from Manchester duo, Hurts. Following from their European success with their debut album, Happiness, the boys dropped another impressive album called Exile for their growing fanbase, and I must admit, I am HOOKED! Prepare for shivers, epicness and moody brilliance! NOTE: As always, I will be reviewing the DELUXE EDITION of the album.

If you’ve heard “Happiness”, you’ll know Hurts perfect quite grungy, European fusions of rock and techno. The opening track, “Exile”, features a very heavy sound to mimic their experiences of performing live around the world. It’s an epic crash of heavy guitars, thunderous drums and flashing synths that bridges perfectly from their previous work.

“Miracle”, the following song, was one of the first songs from this album cycle that we heard. It probably bridges the first album to this album better than “Exile”, but it doesn’t possess the qualities usually found in opening tracks. It’s a great song that the crowd would enjoy chanting to. Lyrically, the song seems to have a lot of self-struggle, but the instruments provide a very uplifting, bright pace.

The third track is one of my favourites from the album, “Sandman”. It’s a complete individual song on the tracklist. It has a strong hip-hop/trap influence with heavy brass and synthetic instruments. Theo’s incredibly smooth vocals are paired beautifully with a chanting group in the background; creating a very interesting sound. It possesses one of the most glorious choruses on the entire album and gives me serious chills.

One of Hurts’ most successful singles to date, “Blind” is next. Can we just discuss the irony that Theo fell during the filming of the music video for this song and was an inch from losing an eye? Anyways, back to the song, although it’s quite simple in some ways, it’s delicious on the ears. It’s very pop but has a strong Hurts influence and has another wonderful chorus that you will find yourself singing along to real quick.

“Only You” reminds us of their older work in some ways. For some reason, I get Spanish nightclub vibes from it; don’t ask me why, I don’t know! Honestly, it’s not the strongest song on the album, but it is a superb tune.

Okay, brace yourselves for the next track, “The Road”. I have one word for this song; EPIC. Chills and shivers galore! It has an extremely eerie first verse and bridge and then just… an EXPLOSION chorus. You feel like you’re listening to it at a live show. Theo’s vocals are sensational in how they mimic Adam’s instrumentals with the eeriness and then the loud chorus. Also, watch the music video they made for this track on YouTube. It really captures the entire album and is just flawless!

Okay, I have to be honest; the next song is probably my least favourite. “Cupid” has a lot of personality and would be great live, but it just doesn’t do much for me. That’s just personal opinion though, I know people who love this song more than the others on the album. The last 50 seconds of the song are great, however. There’s some nasty-but-awesome loud whispering and amazing low-register vocals throughout.

Hurts bring me back to life though with the next song, “Mercy”. The tension-build in the verse and the haunting falsetto vocals had a mixture of effects on me. I either feel like I’m about to cry or explode with excitement. The chorus will be the climax of whatever you felt in the verse. You will either be left sobbing or thrashing around your room. Another song I would love to see live from this album. It’s also quite climatic in how it features heavy European-influenced synths that almost create a dubstep vibe in the chorus.

I find “The Crow” quite funny. Call me dirty-minded, but the lyrics seem like a list of sexual innuendos! If you can get over the giggling, it’s actually such a beautiful song. It’s dark, moody but calm. A soft guitar guides you through the song with an even softer beat in the background. There is a blissful acoustic tone to the song and the chorus is a great example of brilliant writing. The instruments and vocals work together so well to elevate the song; like a crow flying away.

“Somebody To Die” for is another single from the album. Melodically simple, this song really aims to contribute to the fact that this album was made to be played live. Hurts have said in interviews that they wanted to capture a live-show atmosphere. They have been touring Europe for a long time now, and this song is a hit with the crowd. Similar to ‘Mercy’, you will either cry or head-bang to this song. Sometimes both, if you’re really into it!

‘The Rope” is next and I’m kind of on the fence about it. Although it is beautifully produced, I just feel like it doesn’t bring anything to the album that we haven’t already heard. If there was any song I’m likely to skip over, it’s this one. I hate how harsh I’m sounding too because I genuinely LOVE these guys for reasons I will be discussing in the next song!

Okay, so maybe I’m morbid, but I want the next song played at my funeral; and my wedding! “Help” is one of the most beautiful ballads I’ve ever heard. The piano on the track was actually recorded by ELTON JOHN! The lyrics are just an emotional punch in the gut, heart and of course, feels. I swear on my life, I cannot listen to this song without crying. The song also features a choir made up of fans of Hurts! They sing the build up to the outro and it is an experience to hear. A roaring guitar and waves of orchestral strings blend with semi-heavy drums and Theo’s voice and it is just… ugh, beautiful. My favourite song on the album by far.

After dying from the last song, you are sent to “Heaven”, as in the next track (well placed, Hurts)! I love this song because it appeals to miserable moods and happy moods. It’s simple, yet sweet. The lyrics are heavily romantic and if you ever go to a Hurts show, you can expect the chorus of this song to be a highlight of the entire show because the entire audience will be roaring it!

The final song is another tear-jerker. “Guilt” is the second ballad that rivals “Help”. We feel like we know Theo and Adam a bit better as people from hearing this song. The lyrics alone will have you questioning your past and reflecting on yourself. The piano, as it does in most ballads, carries the lyrics wonderfully with little effort and has the same sense of honesty that the lyrics have. This isn’t the world’s greatest album ending in my opinion. Although it is a generously lengthy tracklist, I felt like ‘Guilt’ could have done better in the centre of the album. However, it does leave me wanting more, which is why you will see me in the queue to buy their next album, whenever it’s out!

Overall, the album is a very decent listen. I know Hurts are inclined to write a lot of sadder songs, which is perfectly okay, but I think this album will impress you more if you’re in a bad mood. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. This album has the power to convert your sadness into energy and really helps you get to grips with your own emotions and thoughts. For that reason, it is one of my favourite albums of all time! It’s a wonderful of example of keeping your music styles and influences but stepping a little bit out of the box and making things fresher.

Sunil Gangarh
Follow me at