I’d really like to say different, but Wintersleep’s Hello Hum is just kinda boring.
Roll Call Records, 2012
5.6 / 10.0
Nova Scotia’s Wintersleep formed in 2001. Initially, they were part of the Nova Scotia label and artists’ collective Dependent Music, which released their first two albums, 2003′s Wintersleep and 2005′s untitled full-length, as the band just started rolling. In 2006, Wintersleep signed with Labwork, a subsidiary of EMI Canada. After a 2007 line-up change, members Paul Murphy (vocals and guitar), Tim D’Eon (guitar and keyboards), Mike Bigelow (bass), Jon Samuel (keyboards), and Loel Campbell (drums) returned with their 2007 album, Welcome to the Night Sky, followed by a 2008 Juno Award nomination, Canada’s highest honor in the national music scene. Now, the boys are back with their fifth full-lenghth LP Hello Hum. While there are some signs of brightness, I’m afraid the name of the band fits a little too well for my taste.
I don’t want to come across as being overly-critical of Wintersleep’s music. There are, undoubtedly, things to enjoy about Hello Hum. First, the music has a lot in common with the indie pop you would have found on the great Ambassadors record from earlier this year, Litost. They have a lot of interesting mid-song changes, as in “Permanent Sigh”. The jangly 90′s sound of “Nothing is Anything” is bound to end paired with the opening credits of a movie.
I think the key difference between Hello Hum and Litost is in the understated voice of Paul Murphy. Murphy has a different kind of delivery that I appreciate on songs like “Resuscitate”. But that same delivery begins to drag after a few songs, and is downright sleepy by the time I get to “Saving Song”. Then, the band makes the highly inadvisable decision to come awfully close to sounding like Coldplay or Remy Zero on “Unzipper” and “Zones”. The second half of the record sounds as if the band really wanted to care, but just couldn’t. There is nary a hook, or anything particularly memorable at all. The album closer, “Smoke” is a nice little piano track, but hardly enough to make up for the prior ten minutes of plain vanilla.
I really want to like Wintersleep’s Hello Hum, but unfortunately, I just don’t think there is a lot to come back to on this record. There certainly isn’t enough for a single, sustained listen. This is the kind of album that makes it difficult to pick one track from another, dragging down Hello Hum’s few highlights. I can’t help but think that Wintersleep is direly in need of a substantial change-up. The music here feels a bit too well-worn, leaving the impression that this is a band spinning in a rut. I’m holding out hope they can find their way out.
“Nothing Is Anything”
Purchase Wintersleep’s Hello Hum