Review Summary: A decent decent album from a band with potential to be better.
Hailing from Nashville, Tennesee, this 5-piece rock band turned around more than a few heads with its (excellent) cover of Lil Wayne's (terrible) "Lollipop". Originally named Embers Fade, the band changed its name to Framing Hanley after a close friend of the band and girlfriend of drummer Chris Vent passed away.
While the record is hardly innovative or awe-inspiring, it does have a certain charm to it and a couple of gems in it. The 11-track CD starts off with Home, which shows a lot of energy the second the instruments start banging on your ears. After a few seconds, the vocals come in. That's Kenneth Nixon for you. It is worth noting that his voice is actually quite refreshing in today's music scene; it's good to hear someone who has his own sound and isn't trying to imitate anyone else. Not one of his highlight songs though, more on that later. The track progresses and a simple, yet effective lead guitar line comes in. A small and much-needed break around the 2 minute mark slows down the song, only to speed up again. It's a decent track but the album has more to offer.
Next up is Built For Sin, a personal favorite of mine. This is where you'll notice one of the things that this album is filled with: Delayed guitars, and very exquisite ones too. The guitar creates a great atmosphere for one of the most sincere-sounding vocals I have heard thus far. Nixon's all over the place on this one and it's one of his highlights. Lyrically, the song is no poetry book material (nor are the rest of the songs for that matter), but they're honest and well-crafted: "Hypocrisy has really aged you well, the white on your nose is your secret to tell, so you should speak, while they're still listening."
The album keeps progressing but, unfortunately, like in a good number of clean-vocal modern rock songs, the vocals start to get old really fast. Save for a few screams (gasp!) in songs like "Hear Me Now", there is very little variation in the vocals. It eventually gets painful to listen to Nixon sing in that same angelic tone over and over again. "Alone In This Bed" is an exception. An acoustic song for the most part, the vocalist's voice fits great and it doesn't get irritatingly boring. The rest of the songs are sung in the same speed for the most part, more variation there would be fantastic.
Speaking of repetition, it is the biggest flaw the album has. Framing Hanley could have mixed up their writing a little bit more. It's not a quiet-loud-quiet formula per se, but it does seem that for the most part, they start with really good and almost atmospheric intros, only to send the song to hell with the chorus' distortion. Nothing really exceptional about the drums and bass either, they're just there doing their standard job. The lead guitar is the redeeming quality though, as it really has potential to create the right atmospheres. Nixon's voice could be used more effectively, however.
All in all, it's a decent debut album.
The Good: Excellent lead guitar with the right effects in some songs creates a great atmosphere and some really catchy leads here and there. Nixon's voice is unique and adds a lot to some songs. Some songs feature great lyrics as well.
The Bad: Repetitive, repetitive, repetitive. Made my point yet? Pretty basic drumming and bass-work too, could try being more innovative in that aspect.
Bottomline: The band has a lot of potential. If they experiment a little more and add more variation to their tracks, they could come up with a better album. Not that this one's bad, it just has a lot of room for improvement. Don't expect any solos on this one though.
Built For Sin
Hear Me Now
Alone In This Bed
Lollipop cover (from the re-released version)