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