The Living Hour by the Living Hour
Review by Hannah of www.rockmycommute.com
The Living Hour is a fairly new band from Canada – this self-titled album is their debut release, with eight original songs. The album art fits the overall combined mood of each track exactly – a stylized photo of some remote tropical island in creepy isolation with something looking like UFOs gliding ahead. The music is at once echoey, bold, cinematic, positive, and surfey with a Hawaiian-vibe, and tons of experimental sounds embedded throughout.
When I first read the song title “SUMMER SMOG”, I thought it was just right on for this wistful opening number. The vocals come in gently, like Band of Horses with a little more emo. “What happens here?” is the questioning chorus – slowly rolling into graceful, natural harmonies that sound almost choral at the end. Next is “Seagull”; both esoteric and dreamlike. Featured musical sounds emulate the subtle whining of gulls that cascade into a full blown, overlapping sound like ocean waves. This could be a blend of one of Beck’s more mellow pieces with some 60s Beach Boys ballad, lyrically encouraging you to “move with the tide of the sea”.
Track #3 is slow and jangly, but not really new – however I enjoyed the subtle energy of the rhythmic guitars underlying the brighter melodies on this one. With all of the cotton-candy lightness on the first two tracks, I appreciated the very deliberate minor chord progression used to shape the phrases here; this descending progression also adds a bit of earthy-but-not-too gritty depth. “Your silence is a deep dark roar” is repeated over and over, as the music allows the vocals to linger (on a nearly six-minute-song).
In fact, I have to mention that sometimes it was almost imperceptible when one song had ended and another had begun – it was so easy to get lost from time to time in the fluid sounds resting not quite in the background, but not quite in full consciousness. Overall, I would consider the style of this album to be experimental, ethereal, and shoegazy; with a little psychedelia thrown in there (some of the vocals have a hint of 60s influence, while still seeming very novel and fresh). It is NOT rock; but there is a time and place for everything, even mellow music.
“THERE IS NO SUBSTANCE BETWEEN” actually got a little bit rock at the end, which I loved! The use of the organ was also a nice touch, cutting through some of the fluffier sounds and giving you something firm to land on. I noted that track #6 seemed very choral to me again, almost Renaissance in style, over a waltz-like surf-rock guitar, and delicately humming sounds streaming in and out. The strumming guitar provides a foundation for the expressive vocals, creating arcs of emotion. As I was listening, I had no idea what the words were most of the time, as they really fade into the fabric of the music itself for one seamless experience. The clean honesty here reminded me of “The Way I Feel Inside” by the Zombies.
Track #7 “Miss Emerald Green” would be great on a sci-fi film soundtrack, as the blend of familiar and eerie puts one on edge just a bit. The guitar and bass follow a basic chord pattern, for a song that is tinged with an old-fashioned, vintage feel – complete with a light hint of assorted and gravely old radio reverb. “It’s been so long, she says”, the singer pleads, sounding a bit like Of Monsters and Men before the music just goes crazy… then ebbs and flows back down again.
Finally the album closes with “FEEL SHY” – what an adorable name! It is cloud-like and delicate, and reminds me of music by a string-fueled indie act from my homestate highschool days, that was just heart-and-soul into their soundcraft. If you liked the shoegaze artist Pleasantry that I reviewed a few weeks ago, this might be another creative group that you could also enjoy. The Living Hour North American tour kicks off in March, with a ton of shows in later March and April, so there is a good chance you could see them perform, and give these talented, expressive newbies a warm welcome.