Review Summary: Honest and charming indie-pop, from a green hillside in the spring…I will sit back, relax and watch the mountaintops burn…Our lives are lonely enough without destruction.
The above excerpt is from Hey Marseilles’ ‘Hold the Morning’, an anthem surging with optimism and an unprecedented blend of emotion, quaint indie-folk, sweeping strings, and good old rock n’ roll. It is the kind of song that is personalized enough to make it feel like it was written just for you, but comprehensive enough to make sappy film writers gush with praise. The band’s soft-pedalled debut To Travels & Trunks
is a vessel for that kind of song, delivering one confident but modest gem after another. From the gorgeous, ice-dipped pianos on ‘Marseilles’ to the eccentric, swaying orchestral rhythm present on ‘From a Terrace’, Hey Marseilles just might have created one of the most effortlessly rewarding albums of the past few years.
To Travels & Trunks
has one of the most fluid progressions of any album I have ever heard. It knows just when to push towards a climax, and also when to bow out gracefully. No song overstays its welcome, and with a nearly perfect balance of vocals and instrumental sections, there is nary a weak moment to be found. The title track sets the bar high early, drenching the listener in an atmosphere of acoustic guitars and pastoral horns that complement front man Matt Bishop’s vocal melodies and pleas of “all I want is love eternally” almost flawlessly. Like a gentle exhale, ‘Cannonballs’ sees the grand nature of ‘To Travels & Trunks’ fade out into balladry comparable to The Decemberists’ earliest folk endeavors, a trend that continues well into the meat of the album with ‘Cities’, ‘Someone to Love’, and ‘You Will Do For Now.’ It makes frequent returns to its orchestral nature, but never for long enough to give you the impression that Hey Marseilles wants this to be something over-the-top or epic. Sure, the album maintains those qualities, but its flair for extravagance is balanced by Hey Marseilles’ penchant for stripped-down acoustic work and to be quite frank, common songwriting sense.
The best part about the album may be how damn accessible everything is without even once sounding cheesy. Some of the best songs take a less-than-groundbreaking musical approach, and they still manage to sound wholly original and one-hundred percent engaging. Their ability to reinvent the wheel makes To Travels & Trunks
a ridiculously satisfying listen, and when you factor in the quality of the lyrics, even the most common themes are given new life. Lines like “you are getting all you can from my hurting” and “All I want is someone to love, and you were pretty good to love” are poignant and cut straight through to the core. Bishop’s warm vocals are ideal for both the lyrics and the style of music that Hey Marseilles employ, offering a solid blend of sensitivity and raw talent that is easy to embrace and impossible to let go. If you value relatable lyrics, then that is just another category in which this album triumphs.
It is difficult to find weaknesses with To Travels & Trunks
. Its primary failing may be that it isn’t completely new, but then again, that’s something that could apply to ninety-nine percent of the material out there. While today’s world of fingertip song downloads and rapid album consumption has made music more disposable than ever, Hey Marseilles continues to shine bright in spite of modern trends. They don’t uncover new genre frontiers, but they stay comfortably settled in their indie nook, inviting you to join them with every pleasant note, every fascinating string arrangement, and every heartfelt lyric. If you like your music accessible but strangely endearing, To Travels & Trunks
is a record you won’t want to pass over.