Review Summary: Saying the right words with perfect timing... these are just a few of my favorite things.
Almost 99.99% of the people here on Sputnik have not heard of the band Halos with the exception of myself and Comrade (the user who added the band and album to the Sputnik archive). There isn't much background on the band because, frankly, there is not one bit of information you can find about this band. Yeah, all you can find is the band's MySpace page: http://myspace.com/halosband. And, you guessed it, their MySpace page does not include any information about the band either. All we know is, the band consists of five members:
Dan Lyman - Vocals / Guitar
John Hoge - Bass / Vocals
Josh Huber - Keyboard
Zak Freedman - Guitar
Sotiris Eliopoulos - Drums
What surprises me the most about the band is the fact that they have such simplistic music that tends to get more complex the closer you listen and pay attention to what each instrument's role in the song is. The vocalist, Mr. Dan Lyman, has a rough voice that is especially impressive when he shouts or holds loud notes for a decent amount of time. As with the songwriting, since I can't find any lyrics, from what I have heard clearly by ear is okay (nothing too deep or meaningful) except for the lines that really stick out in each song. For example here is a line that always captures my attention from the song Helium
We lock the doors at night for fear that we are in your sights
And when you feel I need to know...
Put back the pieces and pull yourself together, man
We've got so much further to go (son, you won't make it)
Although it doesn't seem like anything too special, the delivery is so raw and emotional that (along with the simple-yet-effective instrumentals in the background) really draws in the listener to try to hear what each instrument and vocalist/backing vocalist is doing. Halos has this way of adding every possible instrument in their quintet without making anything too explosive or overproduced. The guitarists never pull off any impressive solos but at the same time, they don't create anything too basic. The most flavorful guitarwork can be found on the track My Favorite Things
. As for the percussions, the drum does an excellent job at adding just the right amount of drum fills and complex beats that do nothing but keep the rhythm flowing. That's not saying the drumming isn't anything fancy because Sotiris sure does add some diversity here and there. The bass is almost inaudible (typical, haha) but from what I can actually hear, John doesn't like to do anything too fast or complicated. And Mr. Huber does an amazing job of adding some great atmosphere to each track with the keyboards.
The album (or should I say EP) Scarecrow
isn't a must-have or an essential record, but it is something that is worth listening to if you're into alternative or folk rock music. I know that some of you more lazy Sputnik users don't even read the reviews and just want an overview on the tracks, so I've taken the liberty of writing a track-by-track review of Scarecrow
1) A Rowboat in the Perfect Storm - 8/10
A nice opener to the album with a pop sound featuring all of the musicians doing what they do. The main aspect of the song is the vocals which have a nice trade-off between the lead and backing vocals near the end of the track when it gets a little quieter. The track is a little repetitive with the chorus but it's still a great opener.
2) Amalgam - 9/10
The song starts off with a catchy guitar riff that sort of reminds me of a palm-muted western rhythm (horses galloping; cowboy, lasso in hand; that whole deal). Then the entire band plays as loud as they can when the chorus enters while Dan shouts to the skies "Without faith, it'll beat you down!" Overall, a very interesting track that shows off more of the bands instrumental power than their vocals/songwriting.
3) Pool Hall - 8.5/10
The song kicks off with a very carnival-style guitar riff that'll have your head bobbing side to side with the rhythm until the chorus approaches and gives the song less of a Tim Burton feel and more of a poppy, cruising-down-an-empty-highway-by-the-shore sort of feeling. I don't know, that's just how this track makes me feel, and it's always good when a band puts images in your head.
4) Spectres - 9.5/10
Clocking in at five minutes and twenty-two seconds, Spectres
is the longest track on the album. It's also the most diverse and original track from the album. The song starts off soft until the entire band kicks in playing as heavy as they can. Even Dan sounds more strong through his voice. The song is a tiny bit repetitive but it's extended length spreads each chorus farther apart making the song more enjoyable and easier to listen to. The silent interlude in the middle is also a nice touch to the track featuring muted vocals that soon grow louder and louder singing "I'll write you off right back" over and over.
5) Helium - 10/10
Here it is, my favorite track from the album: Helium
. It is also a B-side to their previous self-titled EP (I am not completely sure but it does say B-sides on the back cover and this track is featured on their self-titled). Anyway, this song features rapid drumming (the intro FTW), an extremely catchy chorus, and just another example of how Halos uses all of their instruments to their full extent. Also features the most memorable lyrics from the album (as mention earlier in the review).
6) Tinman and the Lion - 9/10
This track certainly is the softest off of the album. The intro is very eerie until the vocals and acoustic guitar enter the scene. This song is truly Dan's shining moment. Since the instruments are toned down a bit, it gives you a closer look at Dan's real talent. The other musicians don't really do much except help harmonize the singer's wonderful performance. Well, maybe not the softest track considering the chorus, but fairly easy to listen to.
7) Fool's Paradise - 7.5/10
A misleading guitar intro starts off the track easy until Dan takes a deep breath in. Well, there's no explosion but this song doesn't stay quiet for too long. I must warn you, this song is the most repetitive off of the album. You're going to hear "Here comes the fool, yeah, here comes the mascot" several times through the track. It brings the song down a bit but it's still a very enjoyable track considering the full band's effort once again to add all of their elements together.
8) My Favorite Things - 9/10
An acoustic guitar begins this song with a steady pace and a calm guitar/keyboard combo relaxes the listener while Dan soon joins the band with a soft tone that is simply soothing. We get to learn what a few of Dan's favorite things are including: "Saying the right words with perfect timing" which is so undeniably true that you can't help but grin as you continue to listen to this layback track 'til the end. Hardly any percussions though...
9) Landmine - 9.5/10
Here's the acoustic/lone vocal track we were looking for. Landmine
is the perfect example of how a band so good at effortlessly combing all of their instruments to create just the right sound can still make a great ender with just two (acoustic guitar and the occasional hand clap). Another one of Dan's shining moments, of course, along with another display of his best song-writing. Although the song is not instrumentally powerful through impressive musicianship, it is a very serene and beautiful way to end a respectable EP from an unknown band.