Review Summary: "Out of the black sea, I will rise..."
Everyone has to start somewhere. For Dan Avidan, lead singer of Ninja Sex Party and Starbomb, his musical point of origin is a little-known band known as The Northern Hues. Despite only lasting a few years before breaking up and only releasing this self-titled EP, the man many know and love from his musical projects and Game Grumps might not have existed without this band. Even without that reason to hear it, if you are a fan of the Britpop or New Wave movements, this EP is still worth a listen or two.
A definite highlight of the album has to be the vocals of Dan Avidan. Even on this release, Dan establishes his fondness for layers of vocal tracks and beautiful harmonies, which would be employed on later projects. His distinct tone, a mix of a powerful projection and a soft accent, makes the songs even sweeter. The lyrics, while focusing heavily on cryptic imagery, are fairly good, and do a fine job of conveying his spiritual themes and relationship metaphors. When he sings “… as the moonlight lays on an island, like a diamond glowing on”, even though what he sings may not always make sense at a first glance, he always manages to fit the mood of the song.
As far as the instrumentation goes, it’s fairly solid. Throughout the EP, organs float along and build atmosphere, occasionally taking the forefront – evident on “Get a Ride” - but never staying for long. Dual guitars by Aron Brand and Jeff Rains attack power chords and melodic runs with surprising variety, providing ferocity on tracks such as “Arrows” while also being able to pull off softness on tracks like “Shine”. The rhythm section keeps everything in check very well; the bass is able to gain some melody of its own, and while Ian Creech sticks to simple rhythms, he performs these rhythms competently. Songs never feel like they drag on, even when half the record repeatedly reaches the five minute mark, and all of the songs are enjoyable.
Not everything is perfect about the EP however. Dan’s vocals, as lovely as they are, are not always clear, and not being much higher than the instruments in the mix does not help matters. Subsequently, this causes lyrics to be indecipherable at times. The mix itself also varies between tracks; the rhythm section gets pushed under the other instruments at times, or the effects used on the instruments take up too much space overall. A more consistent mix would have been preferable, especially with the only live track, “Close Your Eyes”, which contains those problems in abundance. Another small complaint is the album’s lack of tracks that are only available from the band’s Myspace page, although that doesn’t affect the quality of the tracks included.
Clocking in at six tracks and twenty seven minutes, I would consider The Northern Hues EP as the musical equivalent of Firefly; it’s a shame we don’t have more, and we don’t know how much could have been improved if there was a chance for more, but what we do have is an excellent piece of work.