Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sweet Sweet Hands by: Pretty Little Empire (Album Review )

Pretty Little Empire has crafted an album that vacillates between alt-folk and western music with campfire storytelling underpinnings. Justin Johnson handles most of the guitar and lead vocals. William Godfred plays drums and guitar as well as lead vocals on a couple of songs. Wade Durbin plays bass and adds vocals. Hannah Maxwell pitches in too with some instruments as well as beautiful background vocals. All of the vocals dovetail nicely. Their harmonies range from sweet and easy to loose and off kilter depending upon the tone they are going for. Glockenspiel, saw, upright bass, xylophone and trumpet are all used on Sweet Sweet Hands in small amounts that make the album a complete sound.

The wandering guitar line that starts"Piercing Blue Eyes", the album opener, sets the stage for a campfire sing along. The layered vocals add an extra depth and insistence to the subject matter, a broken heart. The refrain states 'staring me down with those piercing blue eyes you beat me down again, oh you beat me down again'.

"Good Morning Early Riser" features lonely trumpet flourishes, played by Andy Laisher, echoes the wistful nature of someone admitting they were wrong. 'How places change and faces change for us. And our loyalty is always at a loss...and I had it wrong".

"Never Said Much" is a punk charged sing along with a call and response that evokes big band swing jazz.

"Give It Time To Turn Around" features beautifully restrained vocals. Hannah sings background vocals that are sweet and soft. The lyrics are delivered with the emphasis on the last syllable that is repeated to good effect, ' I have nothing left to show -ow-ow-ow'.

An eerie warble from a saw ,played by Andy Laisher, gives "Baby Boy Killer" a dream like feel. This emphasizes the surreal subject matter of a child who grows up as a killer.

The tempo quickens on "Get Up and Go". The far away sound of the backing vocals gives this an urgent and displaced feel.

"A Long Time For Laughter" is a plaintive love song. The smart lyrics reveal the story between two lovers. 'You wanted babies, I wanted a war, now our bodies are meant for nothing but chores'. In this song a few words go a long way.

The sum of all the parts on Sweet Sweet Hands leaves the listener humming more than one of the melodies. There is an overall bright and dreamy feel that the music, vocals, and production have an equal part in creating. Pretty Little Empire understands the best way to tell a good story musically is to use a little restraint and leave a little to the listener's imagination. I often review just the "highlight" tracks but I found that this album is deep with beautifully crafted songs.

Sweet Sweet Hands available in on Oct.26 at Pretty Little Empire.


Post a Comment