Album Reviews

The Hush Now – Constellations

(Elleon) UK release date: 22 February 2010

Every once in a while, there comes an album that brings together all your favourite sounds and speaks directly to you like a voice sounding over the great distance, from all your most well remembered times.

That fuzzed-out guitar sound is Jawbreaker, blaring at your first keg party. That bass groove The Cure‘s first record blasting out your car windows. The melody and vocal inflection here are Guided By Voices‘ Isolation Drills as the leaves change. This is The Hush Now, whose second album Constellations is a culmination of everything that’s great in indie rock past and present.

The Hush Now have a distinct Britpop sensibility, sounding often like The Stone Roses and occasionally a bit like Oasis, if only a little. But they’re from Boston, home of baked beans, the Red Sox and the band that brought you More Than A Feeling. Not exactly a hotbed for perfectly crafted indie-pop songs.

Lead singer Noel Kelly sounds quite a bit like a blend of Robert Pollard, Rivers Cuomo and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin‘s John Cardwell. The music is equal parts Superdrag, Guided By Voices, Weezer, Jawbreaker and Yo La Tengo. This is sugary, bubblegum shoegaze, mid-’90s post-grunge power pop at its peak.

The production (both of the band’s efforts have been produced by David Newton of The Mighty Lemon Drops) is constantly surprising and innovative. Here, an operatic vocal aside (lead single, Hoping And Waiting), there a chamber-music string arrangement (All You’ve Said And Done), and there again a blistering horn section (Smokescreens).

Constellations opens with the pounding, driving Contrails, whose guitars seem ripped from anything off Superdrag’s Regretfully Yours; and just when you thought they don’t make fuzz-box distortion like this anymore. And Noel Kelly’s voice soars over the noise, nailing an impeccably sing-able AM Gold melody that sticks in your ear like gum to the soles of your shoes.

Lead single Hoping And Waiting is something of a pop gem, opening surprisingly with a cathedral organ run before erupting into a lightning-pop groove that smacks of The Stone Roses. The opera vocal part is jarring, and could be taken as pompous lack of control in the production booth – and it would be taken as such in the hands of a lesser band. But The Hush Now, under the deft guidance of David Newton, are purveyors of pop in its purest, crystalline form, and you’ve got to trust them implicitly. The effect is visceral.

The album never relents, and never induces weariness on the part of its listener. Thorns successfully brings The Edge style guitar delay into the equation, and lopes along beautifully. Fireflies (not an Owl City cover, thankfully) opens with backwoods banjos before building into a Velvet Teen thing with reverb-soaked guitars, plunked keyboards and galloping drums. Misanthropes employs a bit of Pedro The Lion chord structure, but foregoes the insecurity. I Saw You First is a roller-rink couple skate saturated in sunshine and popcorn grease.

The Hush Now are ones to watch. Their self-released second album is poised to become the sort of label-free mover that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and the aforementioned SSLYBY have enjoyed. Constellations is a welcome reminder that indie-pop has not, in fact, gone the way of the buffalo and the avant-garde dance bands. The Hush Now prove that infectious melody and relentless fuzz are just as effective today as they’ve ever been.

Download the album – right now, if you know what’s good for you – for free from the band’s website.

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The Hush Now – Constellations