Wintersleep, ‘Hello Hum’ – Album Review
Since getting a co-sign from freaking Canada with the 2008 Juno Award for New Group of the Year, Nova Scotian indie rockers Wintersleep have seen their reputation as erstwhile underdogs replaced with an internationally-televised performance on 'The Late Show with Letterman,' an opening spot for Paul McCartney and a fair deal of critical shine from their fellow countrymen.
Now the band is aiming for the title of "the coolest kids at the weird kids' table" by entrusting the sound of its fifth album, 'Hello Hum,' with Grammy-winning producer and mixer Dave Fridmann (best known as the Flaming Lips' long time, not-so-secret weapon), whose affinities toward synthesized atmospherics and texture, unsurprisingly, provide a welcome layer of tundra in need of a sonic reinvention.
Fridmann wastes no time splashing a thick dose of himself on the album. The opening cut, 'Hum,' unfolds with a channel-jumping synthetic, well, hum behind a clatter of echoed, multi-tracked percussion and all manners of synthetic chirps and crumples. That's not to say that this album is 'Hello Hum' by Dave Fridmann (feat. Wintersleep). At its higher and best written points, the band's jittery ebullience shines through the heavy-coated production. Lead single 'In Came the Flood' offers a constant, choral melody line while driving like a three-way collaboration between Interpol, New Order and anti-anxiety medication.
No doubt, 'In Came the Flood' is this album's best example of a band playing to its strong suits. Unfortunately, a band -- especially an award-winning one trying to prove its longevity -- can't very well drive home a solid album by staying in its top gear: It's necessary to have a little fluctuation in tone, mood and rhythm. And Wintersleep knows it, hence tracks like the melancholic, bare 'Saving Song' and 'Someone, Somewhere,' with its mood admirably picked out of Brian Wilson's bathrobe lint circa 1971.
It's a catch-22 in the rock and roll handbook: Stick to your best sound and find yourself with a repetitive album, or try to diversify your album and end up with an uneven one. Bands much better than Wintersleep have certainly fallen trap to it. Then again, bands much better than this have also taken much longer than five albums to find their steadiest footing. Until Wintersleep create the 100 percent solid album they're aiming for, consider 'Hello Hum' another installment from a band who sounds like they may just have one in them, somewhere.