Review Summary: Wintersleep’s fifth full-length album is an effort formed once again on strong points of their previous work, and filled with focus on musical timbres that had only minor influence in past compositions.
Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Wintersleep have a knack for building on where they have been. Following the relatively significant commercial success of 2007’s "Welcome to the Night Sky", it was fairly apparent that they took the best efforts of that album and expanded on them, but "New Inheritors" (2010) was by no means an attempt at the recreation of their previous achievement. It might have cost them some publicity, but it is highly doubtful that it cost them any of their fanbase they have built over the last decade.
Enter "Hello Hum", Wintersleep’s fifth full-length album: an effort formed once again on strong points of their previous work, and filled with focus on musical timbres that had only minor influence in past compositions. The album title track commences the album like an introduction song, very experimentally. Wintersleep has been no stranger to building ambience in their sound, and "Hum" remains true to this. It is sure to catch some off-guard in the first couple minutes with its panning feedback-like synthesizers and sporadic percussive rhythms.
"In Came the Flood" seems to provide the real kickoff to "Hello Hum" with a flood of guitar hammer-ons in a mild coating of effects, and while the first three tracks have a nice flow to them, "Resuscitate" is where the album undoubtedly picks up. Seemingly complex keyboard leads melded with bizarrely fitting guitars (both rhythm and lead) and wonderfully catchy chorus vocals, provided not so much by the lyrics but the melodic contour itself. Listeners might find themselves whistling along and bobbing their head once the chorus pops.
The album seems to taper off a bit energy-wise with "Permanent Sigh" and "Saving Song", until "Unzipper" plays out, which packs the usual indie-rock punch that Wintersleep seem to include at least a couple of times in their albums, and from this point on, the album is consistently solid in quality. "Someone, Somewhere" brings a much lighter and radiant feel to it, comparable to a song by the Beach Boys or the more recent Miracle Fortress. "Smoke" and the interestingly named "Papa Time" finish the album on an acoustic high note. The finishing track also includes some sensational trumpet accents and a clap-along bridge section, leaving the listener feeling just as good as when they started the album.
There is namely one consistent shining point within "Hello Hum" worth mentioning, and that is the vocal performance of Paul Murphy. Not much has changed of his highly distinguishable voice, but now it seems to resonate and grip at frequent points, similar to what Thom Yorke’s voice is capable of on a Radiohead album. Murphy provides the foreground and the background in an ever-sincere and polished likeness throughout the 50-minute run, showing his best capabilities yet as a vocalist.
While Wintersleep might have been known to some as moody, haunting, and/or downright ominous, the evolution of their sound becomes very apparent in this album. Moments are seldom with the aforementioned emotional qualities, and the majority of the work plays out colourfully, albeit with the same originality the band is reputable for. It is a refreshing and engaging addition to the band’s strong discography, without the exception of it needing a few attentive listens to get the full effect. Those who are interested should do themselves that favour at least, if they had the patience to read through the album’s review.