British duo Hurts are known for their dramatic, synth-based pop that takes inspiration from a finely curated mix of influences including '70s Krautrock, '80s new wave, and '90s R&B. It was a stylish aesthetic they first showcased on their 2010 debut, Happiness. A breakthrough album, it landed at number four on the British charts, and number two in Austria, Germany, Poland, and Switzerland, helping to spark the group's passionate European fan base. Since then, they have continued to expand their sound, delving into grandiose orchestrations as on 2013's Exile and further embracing pop hooks as on 2017's Desire.
After meeting in Manchester in 2005, vocalist Theo Hutchcraft and keyboardist/guitarist Adam Anderson formed several bands including Bureau and Daggers, the latter of which signed to Label Fandango in 2007. With their high-energy electro-pop sound, Daggers released the single "Money/Magazine." However, Hutchcraft and Anderson grew increasingly unhappy with the direction the band was taking and after a particularly disastrous A&R showcase performance in London, they decided to disband Daggers.
Holing up in a basement studio, with the duo now going by the name Hurts, they began focusing on a more streamlined, moody, and emotional sound that traded Daggers' edgy pop confrontation for a sustained synth pop drama. Working via the Internet with Swedish producer Jonas Quant, Hurts recorded three initial songs, "Wonderful Life," "Evelyn," and "Unspoken." In June 2009, Hurts' self-produced, stark black-and-white video for the song "Wonderful Life" went viral, and by July they had signed with the RCA imprint Major Label. Throughout the rest of 2009 and 2010, the band's fan base grew even larger with the release of more songs posted to their MySpace page, as well as videos for "Blood, Tears & Gold" and "Better Than Love" and increasing radio play of "Wonderful Life."
Having held off performing live as they built up their song list, Hurts made their concert debut in Berlin in January 2010. Shows across the U.K. and Europe followed and helped build the band's following. In March 2010, the single "Better Than Love" debuted at number 50 on the U.K. singles chart. Also around this time, as if to mark how popular the group had become, Hurts recorded the song "Devotion" with backing vocals from pop superstar Kylie Minogue. Hurts then released a live in-studio performance of a cover of Minogue's 1994 hit single "Confide in Me" for the website The Sun.
In August 2010, Hurts' debut full-length album, Happiness, debuted at number four on the U.K. albums chart, selling over 25,000 copies in its first week, making it the fastest-selling album by a band in the U.K. that year. Featuring the singles "Better Than Love," "Wonderful Life," and "Stay," among others, the record was huge success across Europe, and Hurts' profile rose exponentially. Several accolades followed in 2010, including topping the BBC's Sound of 2010 poll, winning a German BAMBI award, and garnering an MTV Europe Music Award nomination. The following year, Hurts earned more public support after a playing a high-profile slot at the Glastonbury Festival. The performance was well-received and was even voted best of the festival by NME readers. Also that year, the band headlined their first European tour, which culminated with a concert at London's Brixton Academy with special guest Kylie Minogue.
In December 2012, in anticipation of their next album and in keeping with their tradition of releasing stylish, immaculately directed videos, Hurts released a long-form promotional video for the song "The Road," which itself was inspired by Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name and J.G. Ballard's novel Crash. Hurts followed up in 2013 by releasing their sophomore album, Exile, which debuted at number nine on the U.K. albums chart, and cracked the Top Ten in seven European countries, including Germany, Poland, and Switzerland. Featuring production from Hutchcraft and Anderson, along with Quant and Dan Grech-Marguerat, Exile showcased a nuanced, somewhat more contemporary sound that incorporated more orchestral and rock instrumentation, yet retained all of Hurts' core new wave and Krautrock influences.
In 2015, Hurts delivered their third studio album, Surrender, which featured production from Quant as well as Stuart Price (Madonna, the Killers) and Ariel Rechtshaid (HAIM, Vampire Weekend). The LP spawned several singles, including "Some Kind of Heaven," "Lights," and "Slow." It peaked at number 12 on the U.K. charts, number one in Switzerland, and number eight in Germany. Two years later, the band returned with the full-length Desire, which found them further embracing a hooky, mainstream pop sound. Buoyed by the singles "Beautiful Ones" and "Ready to Go," it landed at number 21 in Britain and further cemented their strong European following. In 2020, Hurts released their fifth studio long-player, Faith. Produced by Hutchcraft and Anderson, along with Martin Forslund and Joe Janiak, the album found them balancing pop hooks with an early-'90s goth and industrial sound. ~ Matt Collar