New Music Review: Hands & Teeth – Hunting Season

 

Isn’t it the way it goes: your favourite albums typically take a tad longer to bite into than your so-so albums.

That was the case for me when first digesting Hands & Teeth, an indie rock 5-piece from Toronto who released their debut LP Hunting Season earlier this year.  The first couple go-arounds piqued my curiosity but didn’t blow me away.

And then I gave it a third spin.

What works so damn well for Hands & Teeth in this 8-track/30-minute LP—aside from fantastic musicianship—is the songwriting dynamics found on each individual song.  Each individual track seems as though it was written entirely by a different band member, giving every song it’s own personality, but still staying true to the experimental-pop sound Hands & Teeth have chiseled and honed rather intricately.  This may be reason in-part as to why the album may take a few passes before total acceptance.

Or maybe not.

The album opens modestly with the quaint It’s Coming Back giving the listener just a little glimpse into Hunting Seasons body of work, all the while delaying the inevitable pleasure of diving into the foray of aural bliss.  The tactic of putting one of your so-so tracks as album opener can be a bit of a risky maneuver, but works well here.  Kind of like a flirty tease, if you will.

Hands & Teeth‘s shared male-female vocals are an important piece of their arsenal, and is utilized effectively throughout the LP.  For example, All That Was blends female vocalist/keyboardist Natasha Pasternak with the other 4 male members of the band (Jeff Pinto, Kevin Black, Adam Kolubinski, Derek Monson) effortlessly, as though their voices were destined to be together (I’m full of cheezyness today, folks).

One of the many highlights on Hunting Season is the aptly-named Le Petit Voleur.  Pasternak is the solo vocalist here (aside from some backing vocal melodies) and her falsetto flutters delicately amidst the playful guitar and bass lines.  Truly one of my favourite tracks of the year.

The Sound of Hamilton ramps up the album’s intensity and displays the band’s edgier side.  Moody guitar notes and a few more odd noises mixed with some haunting backing vocals and a desperation plea of “When will you tear it down?” in the outro make for the moodiest track on the album.

But as they do so well, the band calms back down, changes musical wardrobe and ventures back to the drawing board with the acoustically powered Missing—another gem, and just when you thought the vocal melodies couldn’t get any better.

Parallel States and Hunting Season round out the bottom half of the album, which is closed with another aptly named tune, Song 8, as it is indeed the 8th and final tune on the LP.  Parallel States injects some fantastic keys and a danceable beat, in case you were sitting down, while Hunting Season keeps the tempo going and is the band’s lead-off single.  The verse vocals arouse a Bob Dylan tingle and again blend the male-female leads wonderfully.  The title track actually feels a little like 3 songs were sewn together and stitched up nicely, leaving little scarring.  The final two minutes of the track build to a crescendo and finish with 4 keyboard plinks.

Song 8 ends the 8-song chapter of an album by Hands & Teeth at just over 30 minutes of playing time. The final song is an appropriate closer as it wraps up the album with a cold, lonely intimacy:

All the gears too long left stalled 
start to stir the rust comes off 
All the gears too long left stalled 
Under the ground, I hear the sound 
Deep in the city, can hear the rust shake off

I find it rather intriguing that the album runs 8 songs long and just crests the 30-minute mark at its end—which just so happen to be the minimum requirements for a coveted Polaris Music Prize long-list entry.

Huh.

-Dylan

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~ by whet_hopped on May 6, 2012.

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