Carl Hauck has spent his last few releases searching for an identity. He was right at the cusp of one with Counter Intelligence, and his subsequent release Windjammer finally pushed him over the top. Carl Hauck’s lush, calm, finger-picked folk rides on gently thoughtful lyrics and understated yet rich vocal melodies to create an expansive experience inside an intimate mood. Hold up while I unpack all that mumbo jumbo.
Opening track “Martial Riesling” is the best song I’ve heard yet from Hauck, building on the strengths of his “To Coast” track that he contributed to On Joyful Wings’ latest comp. He starts the song off with a gentle guitar melody, which he quickly follows up with calm but rapid lyrics. Hauck’s not in a hurry, but he’s got a lot to say; that idiom follows through the album. In previous albums, his rapid delivery made understanding difficult. That doesn’t happen here. He’s letting listeners in to his thoughts much more, not shrouding them in cryptic words or speedy delivery.
His sound takes a turn for the expansive when he brings horns in for accent toward the end of the song. They aren’t particularly brassy or blaring; they, like the rest of the album’s parts, gently make their case before fading off. It alerts the listener to keep ears out for the stuff that’s going to be happening on the album. The same was true with previous releases, but the sounds didn’t fit in his songs as cohesively. Now the pieces gel perfectly, as gentle orchestration becomes a staple of the album’s sound.
The circumstances in which Hauck wrote the album also help the mood. Windjammer is the name of the street Hauck grew up on; it’s the same street he currently lives on, where he wrote the album. The whole album has a quiet awe about it, and features repetition of vocal and guitar melodies heavily. The repetition serves as a model of the feelings running through his experience (“whoa, I’ve lived here before”), as well as a showcase of his excellent melodic abilities.
In addition to having wonderful songs throughout, this album is a cohesive experience. It is best listened to in order, without distraction from the liner notes, lyric transcription or anything else. From tip to tail, it evokes a consistent feeling that feeling washes over the listener. It put me in a nostalgic state, especially by the time “Rooster” appeared at track 7. It’s a rare album that sustains a single consistent mood without getting monotonous, so Windjammer is definitely worth praising on that front.
Carl Hauck’s latest release builds on his strengths and drops out old weaknesses, which is about all you can ask for in a developing artist. The songs are emotive and powerful without being forceful, and beautiful without being cloying. Windjammer is one of the best acoustic releases of the year, as it will continue to reveal treasures as one listens repeatedly.
I am a big fan of compilations. Twenty or more bands to check out at once in a format that plays them end to end while I chill? Yes please. On Joyful Wings‘ compilation We Were Lost, We Were Free is the best compilation I’ve ever heard, bar none. It even trumps Deep Elm‘s enormously influential Too Young to Die; seeing as I discovered my favorite song of all time via that comp (Appleseed Cast‘s “Fishing the Sky”), please know that I’m endowing an immense amount of praise in those words.
The reason it’s the best ever is because out of the 21 bands featured, there’s only two bands whose offerings I didn’t enjoy. Furthermore, I was inspired to go get more music from eight of these bands. Add in the fact that I already own music by three of these bands, and you’ve got an 11/21 conversion rate. That’s enormous for a comp. Mostly I find one or two bands off a comp that I enjoy enough to follow. These guys know what’s up when it comes to tracking a comp.
The bulk of the tracks here are gorgeous, flowing acoustic tunes; there are a couple indie-rock tracks, an indie-pop song and an excellent pop-punk tune by Chasing the Sky, but other than that it’s all acoustic. Holcombe Waller contributes “Risk of Change,” which has brilliant melodies, solid lyrics and a contained energy that makes the song infectious. I’ve listened to it 22 times already. I’ve also listened to “Umbrellas (Acoustic)” by Sleeping at Last 22 times; the track itself is gorgeous in its construction, and this acoustic version translates beautifully.
Carl Hauck‘s “To Coast” was written specifically for this comp, and its optimism through depression sets the tone for the whole album for me. Ikaik offers up a soul-crushing (yet still beautiful) tune that contradicts that last statement, as there’s little hope in the lines, “you can hate me/you have got the right/and when you leave tomorrow/don’t say goodbye/and don’t try to change my mind.”
TW Walsh (ex-Pedro the Lion) contributes a really nice change of pace with a goofy, upbeat tune; Tom Hoekstra reinterprets “Be Thou My Vision” excellently; Josh Woodward goes all Depression-era troubadour tales on us; Fireflies offers a beautiful “fields at dusk”-type piece; and Jeremy Larson leads off the set with an impeccable piece of melodic, cinematic pop.
If a 19/21 success rate and a 11/21 conversion rate aren’t enough to convince you, perhaps the fact that you get all that plus contributing five dollars to the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation should pique your interest. Great tunes and a charitable feeling in your soul. At this point, your only question should be “why didn’t you tell us about this sooner?” and the reason for that is that I’m a jerk. and I’m busy. But mostly a jerk.
But seriously, get over to their Bandcamp page and download it. You will not regret it if you like acoustic music. It’s an absolutely incredible collection, and I absolutely can’t wait for their next project, which they’re already working on. I promise I’ll tell you about it quicker next time.