Houndmouth – Little Neon Limelight

Houndmouth - Little Neon LimelightIt only took one listen for Sedona to draw me in. The main single from Little Neon Limelight, the second album by Houndmouth, is one of several songs that would have brought a similar result as my introduction to the Indiana band, but for different reasons in different ways.

Sedona draws me in because it tells of forgotten hope buried in failure. The story of Sedona, Arizona – “little Hollywood,” where many westerns were filmed back when westerns made up a huge chunk of the movie industry. The song itself is a modern folk song in a throwback to old times, when hope was alive before the dooming end of that particular genre. But the mood of it could apply to anything that fits that general description. I could imagine it used in a Man Men montage, for example, because it captures so well the feel of suburban 1960s America – or at least how I imagine it.

Beyond Sedona, the four-person band takes on folk, rock, country and Americana through its many incarnations, going from the boozy ballad of Gasoline, with Katie Toupin on lead vocals, to the foot stomper 15 Years, that demands you to sing along through all of its time changes. For No One is another ear-grabber as Matt Myers yearningly sings delicately to the old man and the sea. If you listen closely during the first verse, you can hear the lyrics of Sedona echoing eerily in the background.

On their own, these songs are deserving of being included in any Best of 2015 playlist I might conjure up by the end of the year. Together, they serve as part of a strong first half of Little Neon Limelight.

Houndmouth excels most with group harmonies. Katie’s vocals are distinct at the back of this booming group, nicely complementing and rounding out the sound, but the contrast between her vocals when done solo and those of the group as a whole is stark. Otis is a prime example as she provides the verses following the opening chorus, which is performed by the group. It takes a moment to settle in but her voice is soon comforting, adding a key dynamic to the group’s sound.

If I were a betting man, I would guess that Little Neon Limelight would sound killer live. As a studio recording, it does have its limits as the question of authenticity comes in to play occasionally, where the record feels too clean for the blend of half-century-old folk, rock and country it plays into. It’s like a crisp clean beer served up in a dirty mug to disguise its true nature. Too rustic to be modern, too polished to be vintage, but still a refreshingly pleasant listen all the same.
Three stars

1. Sedona
2. Otis
3. 15 Years
4. For No One
5. Black Gold
6. Honey Slidey
7. My Cousin Greg
8. Gasoline
9. By God
10. Say It
11. Darlin’

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