The Hundred in the Hands, ‘Red Night’ – Album Review
You probably know Forever 21, the mega successful disposable fashion chain filled to the brim with imitation designer clothes. With ‘Red Night,’ the Hundred in the Hands try to balance the chic and the cheap, but like a shirt from that notorious retailer, it falls apart after a couple wears.
The second studio album by Eleanore Everdell (vocals and keys) and Jason Friedman (guitars and programming) wears its influences strongly. Elements of early Florence + the Machine are here, but Everdell cannot carry a song like Welch does; the dancier tracks are like LCD Soundsystem without the goofy sense of humor; the aggressive cuts like the Knife, but where the Swedish band experimented with abandon, ‘Red Night’ comes off as derivative and listless — though there are moments of glory.
Opener ‘Empty Stations’ builds up a soft Explosions in the Sky swell before charging into an electro-operatic chorus, Everdell’s ultra-produced vocals echoing and tense. But just as the album gathers momentum, it calms down with ‘Recognize,’ all swaying and somber with intricate guitar work reminiscent of Dirty Projectors , followed by a cathartic second half. While they won’t be praised for inventive lyricism, Everdell’s vocals soar in the roaring, thumping ‘Come With Me.’
While the Hundred in the Hands are clearly nocturnal, the title track is tragically somnambulant: You might call it experimental, but a better word might be uninteresting, as Everdell mumble-sings about falling in love over a droning, draining beat. ‘Keep It Low’ is a wake up, a caffeinated single-to-be that deserves a fist pump or five. Less exciting is ‘SF Summer,’ ostensibly about a California city and languid in vocals and production, with Everdell describing fog and worrying about missing New York.
The latter half of the album finds the Hundred and the Hands trying out the dream pop garb: Imagine Beach House if they were vampires. ‘Faded’ is stylish but not thick enough to sink your fangs into, while album standout ‘Tunnels’ is crunching and cathartic, with Everdell’s vocals layered and looped upon themselves, while Friedman’s production is pushing in and pulling away at the all the right points. The long, dreamy, ‘Stay the Night’ doesn’t have nearly the same tautness, though ‘Lead in the Night’ captures some starry evening glimmer.
This is the sophomore album of a young band, and allowances might need to be made. If the Hundred in the Hands discover their own sound (and maybe don’t include ‘night’ in the title of almost every song), they could be on to something alive.