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From the Hills Below the City
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  • Hailing from New Albany, Indiana, a town neighboring Louisville, young band Houndmouth make their debut on the meticulously produced From the Hills Below the City. The album's 12 songs find Houndmouth, composed of just four musicians, putting out a passionate and explosively large sound, revisiting bygone themes through both the down-home holler of heartland Americana and some well-schooled rock musicianship. One of the first things that sticks out about the group is the urgent singing of all four members, often backing each other up as one member takes the lead. Opening track "On the Road" finds vocalists Katie Toupin and Matt Myers in a spirited duet not too far off from the lovers-on-the-run anthems of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros or the dustbowl nostalgia of the Lumineers, who Houndmouth have toured with at times. This song, much like the rest of the album, builds subtly and seamlessly, with supportive organ textures and tambourine showing up just in the nick of time for the brief tune's brilliant summit. The by-the-numbers production goes hand in hand with the bandmembers' tailored playing and thickly stylized vocals, hitting all the marks of emphatic country-enamored rock on tracks like the Toupin-fronted "Houston Train," a tale of being strung out, riding the hard-luck rails. There's plenty of Great Depression-era imagery throughout From the Hills Below the City, with signifiers like coal mines, riverboats, wartime rations, and names of Southern towns making up the lyrical content for many songs. In its best moments, the album taps into an imagined nostalgia at the same time it grabs some of the weary rock & roll grit that made up greasy classics like Exile on Main St. and Neil Young's Tonight's the Night. ~ Fred Thomas
Professional Reviews
Mojo (Publisher) (p.88) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[F]or all the studied swagger there's knowing humour too..."
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