Review: Houndmouth, Little Neon Limelight

Little Neon Limelight

Joe Haddow listens to the sophomore longplayer from New Albany-based four-piece, Houndmouth:

I’ve been waiting a long time for Houndmouth’s second album to reach my record player. Ever since I saw them play a small gig at The Seabright Arms in East London a few years ago, I knew I would be a lifelong fan of this band…

The problem with high expectation is that you can often, understandably, be disappointed; hype is a wonderful thing, until it gets bigger than the artist themselves. With this in mind, I tried to approach this record with the ears of a music lover who has just discovered something new and exciting – and here is the result.

Little Neon Limelight opens quite gently with Sedoma – an atmospheric, rolling tune, which wouldn’t be out of place on the Drive soundtrack. One of things I love about this band is how their voices all mould together (live, and on record) and this track is a perfect example. The moment you hear Matt Myers’ distinctive tones, you feel safe, in good hands…like you’re with friends on a journey. In fact, the opening track is a bit like a journey – building throughout, gaining speed and momentum – listening to it, I imagined being on a train crossing America, looking out the window – a good feeling.

Katie Toupin takes the lead vocals on the next track, Otis, another mid-tempo Americana number with a rousing chorus (and those Houndmouth harmonies) and we are now completely settled into this album.

There are many influences I could cite on this record; For No One could easily appear on the next Felice Brothers record. A slow, acoustic number with rough (but haunting) vocal – it sits perfectly after the rather raucous 15 Years (with a lot of unnecessary studio talk at the end – cut it off in the edit dudes!). Honey Slider could have been written by Bobby Conn and produced by T Bone Burnett. Gasoline is a beautiful, sombre, country number, which could fit nicely into a Coen Brothers film (Inside Llewelyn Davis perhaps?)

Black Gold (not a Sam Sparro cover) sounds like it could have been on the first record – three-and-a-half minutes of raw bass, drums and guitars with loud, punchy vocals.

Throughout the record there is blaring organ, some distorted mic technique and a lot of raw, open drums. It works, and for the most part, this is exactly what I expected of the second Houndmouth album. Dave Cobb has produced a great sounding record, which suits the band’s style, but I think it needs to be listened to loud. Their sound has slightly moved on, it’s heavier musically, has more attitude and the band themselves seem a little more confident in what they’re doing. As a huge fan of the first record (From The Hills Below The City) it is hard for me to compare the two – I have listened to their debut album over 100 times, and the new one just twice – but I think it’s fair to say this; Little Neon Limelight is not a giant leap into a new world of songwriting for Houndmouth – it’s a strong follow-up to a brilliant debut album, but it lacks something which I can’t quite put my finger on.

If you have never heard this band – you must – they are excellent; fresh, interesting and a joy to watch live – and this album is definitely going to grow on me (and will on you too).

Joe Haddow


Review by Joe Haddow. Little Neon Limelight is out now now via Rough Trade / Remote Control.