Canadians Wintersleep have always occupied a space that has been hard to define throughout their five album career to date. The Nova Scotians’ brand of introspective indie rock was often too leftfield for any significant recognition in or outside of their home nation when compared to bands like Arcade Fire. Yet their dogged determination has resulted in ‘Hello Hum’, an album that stands a good chance of turning all of that around.
If the band were ever guilty of anything since their conception in 2001, it is their inability to make a consistent album. 2010’s ‘New Inheritors’ was a frustrating listen, containing mere hints of brilliance that never quite blossomed into anything of greater significance. What the album did achieve though was the subtle metamorphosis the band has gone through, which has resulted in ‘Hello Hum’.
Similar to ‘New Inheritors’, ‘Hello Hum’’s strongest tracks are firmly lodged in its first half, peaking with the grandiose ‘Permanent Sigh’. “All jokes aside, I’ll start over again, with the meaning of life, well, the meaning’s irrelevant…” Paul Murphy sings on the track which embodies this new epic vision from a band who have replaced the space afforded them in previous works with a far richer, fuller sound.
The embers of grunge left over from their 2005 self-titled album and the aforementioned ‘New Inheritors’ has all but been left behind in favour of huge soundscapes and even electronica. ‘Resuscitate’ surges ahead with its pulsing sirens before giving way to the more traditional Wintersleep sound, whilst the straight pop of ‘Nothing is Anything (Without You)’ is clear evidence of producer Dave Fridmann’s (Mogwai, Flaming Lips) influence over the album.
Certainly, ‘Hello Hum’ is the band’s most catchy and complete album by far, Fridmann able to tease out melodies and a warmth to their sound that have on the whole eluded them, despite 2009’s Juno award-winning effort ‘Welcome to the Night Sky’. ‘In Came the Flood’, with its psychedelic tendencies, sits comfortably amidst the new adventurous sound to Wintersleep, even though this level of creativity and experimentation fades somewhat towards the end. Penultimate track ‘Zones’ and ‘Smoke’ tread familiar ground, the band relying on the tried and tested to carry their album through to the end. It’s a shame that the album falters in such a fashion and so late, though do little to detract from the fact that ‘Hello Hum’ is a fine record indeed.