Frustrating fifth album from the Canadians, despite moments of excellence.
Mike Haydock 2012
You can read a lot into a band’s touring buddies. In recent years, Wintersleep have shared the bill with Wolf Parade, The Hold Steady and Editors. These prove apt comparison points for a band that takes the indie-rock template and bends the rules just enough to keep you guessing.
Hello Hum is Wintersleep’s fifth album, and the follow-up to 2010’s New Inheritors, which enabled the Canadians to skip around the globe. Hello Hum builds on that record’s strengths and bristles with confidence: guitarist Tim D’eon, in particular, seems to be on some kind of sugar rush. His looping riffs on lead single In Came the Flood and jittering patterns on Resuscitate are brilliant, propelling the album forward.
Both of these songs appear in Hello Hum’s first half, and it is here that Wintersleep are at their best. They channel The Twilight Sad on opener Hum, a layered, buzzing, brooding crescendo that sucks you into In Came the Flood before you’ve dared to blink. Suddenly the riffs are spinning webs and skittering around in math-rock shapes while Paul Murphy sings a simple, memorable melody over the top.
Nothing Is Anything (Without You) and Resuscitate share a staccato rhythm that Minus the Bear would be proud of – and the latter’s outro is a roaring, molten mess, rockets firing off towards the stars. Permanent Sigh then takes aim at The National’s stately anthems before acoustic ballad Saving Song brings everything back down to earth with a brutal bump. “Wisdom slashed me, and thrashed and lashed me, and burned my eyes,” Murphy sings. “If I come home bloody, will you still want me?”
Breathtaking stuff. Sadly, Wintersleep can’t maintain this momentum into Hello Hum’s second half. Chugging guitars take over; invention bleeds away. Rapture and Unzipper are too solid and predictable after what has gone before, and while Someone, Somewhere tries to mix things up with a nod to Pet Sounds, it is too breathy and whimsical to convince.
Hello Hum is therefore a frustrating album, one that threatens to make Wintersleep a household name but ultimately keeps them under the radar.