Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Hello Morning creates atmospheric rock on the coattails of giants

March 8, 2010

Hello Morning’s music isn’t for morning people. Their self-titled EP is a moody, atmospheric affair that would resonate more with people who wake up in a haze and don’t really get their crap together until about 11 a.m. By no means is it morose, meandering or plodding; it just doesn’t really agree with the sun. It feels like the soundtrack to an indie thriller like Push (which I would highly recommend to you).

The problem with Hello Morning is that it falls squarely into the genre “indie-rock.” When there’s no genre-creating crutch to rely on (punk’s energy, downtempo’s beats, pop’s singalong qualities, metal’s riffing, etc), the songwriting gets thrust into the spotlight very quickly. Especially since these songs are meant to be epic and meaningful (read: OK Computer), there’s a lot of weight borne on the collective talent of these four men to produce great songs. They can’t hide behind any tricks. And, like shining a bright light on a dark spot exposes all the flaws, this no-tricks approach leaves Hello Morning wide open to praise and criticism.

The criticism first: most of these songs don’t have an attention-grabber. The songs are tightly constructed, excellently played and recorded brilliantly, but there’s nothing in them to snag a casual listener. The chorus of “Coldbreakers” is one of the better moments on the EP, but its melody still seems like a Radiohead cast-off. “Come Home” has a sprightly ’80s feel to it, but the guitar melodies are not significantly different enough to be distinct from, say, “Everything is You.” The songs aren’t difficult to listen to; they’re difficult to tell apart.

The exception is “Mercury (Once Again),” which opens with a distinctive single-note melody, then throws in a counterpoint and a slinky bass line. Their decision to forego the full-on atmospheric treatment (no keys) actually creates a more memorable atmosphere for the song to reside in. Throw in an excellent (although still Thom Yorke-esque) performance by the lead vocalist and a great bridge, and you’ve got a winner. It sticks out on the album, and it’s the one that I keep returning to.

Hello Morning has a lot going for them, but they haven’t found their exact voice yet. They play and write with confidence, but I have a hard time connecting with the songs. If you’re a big fan of OK Computer and albums of its ilk, this will interest you. Otherwise I’d give Hello Morning a little more time to grow.

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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