A cannily concise second set from the Polaris Prize-nominated Canadians.
Mike Diver 2012-03-16
Blurring the lines between album and EP, this second ‘full’-length from Canadian collective Hooded Fang rocks to a meagre 23-minute running time, and once shorn of a trio of interlude-y cuts called Big Blue (I, II and III respectively) features just seven songs ‘proper’. But by focusing on the sweetest of hooks amid some wonderfully retro-twanging surf guitar and licks from dusty Tijuana barrooms, it really clicks with immediate effect.
Hooded Fang features five to seven members dependant on what the situation at hand is; but it’s the pair of Daniel Lee and April Aliermo that comprises the project’s songwriting heart, and Tosta Mista is inspired by the couple’s real-life break-up. But anyone demanding a set of songs front-loaded with misery had best redirect their listening gear, for this is quite the upbeat treat.
Parallels with the likes of Black Lips and The Drums present themselves in no time at all, and while there’s the faintest whiff of pastiche these arrangements, in the vocals of Lee one hears real soul. In the simplest couplet – "I don’t care what the neighbours say / I wanna love you anyway," opens ESP – he nails universal emotion with a ruthless editor’s sharpness. Around him guitars crackle and pop with a lo-fi fuzz heard a hundred times over, but familiarity never once breeds contempt. How can anyone get tired of a collection that’s so cannily concise? Tosta Mista is around half the length of The Drums’ Portamento LP 2011, but twice as impressive to these ears.
Previously issued on the band’s own Daps Records, and picked up by Full Time Hobby some months after its first release, Tosta Mista is the follow-up to a Polaris Prize-nominated 2010 debut (titled, Girls-style, simply Album). It’s hard to hear this disc’s award ceremony appeal, but it’s undoubtedly a treat all the same. Alliermo contributes additional lyrics to Vacationation and Den of Love, but this is really something of a one-man show: Lee was alone post-split to focus on writing, as his ex escaped to the Philippines, and it benefits from the focus such a gestation can bring. The lovelorn Den of Love is perhaps its strongest turn, as sweet as the ripest fruit but as bitter as the darkest chocolate – and everyone knows how brilliantly those ingredients combine.
However it’s racked – as an album or an EP – Tosta Mista does enough with its brevity to point towards some pretty significant potential. This won’t be the last the UK hears of Hooded Fang.