Wintersleep — Hello Hum. Out June 12, Roll Call Records.
To call Canadian rockers Wintersleep a mere “indie rock” band is to fall back on genres, and to dismiss the so much more than makes up their complete distinct sound: there’s hardcore guitars and a punk mentality, a lot of synth pop and drumming that can’t be pinned down. It’s experimental art rock and catchy hooks and garage pop guitars as much as it is anything, and it’s all best played loud, even the sad songs. I saw them live at Kings last summer on a very, very bad night, and they nearly blew out the windows, and they played “Weighty Ghost”, and I cried.
Hello Hum is their fifth album, and a logical successor to 2007’s gorgeous Welcome to the Night Sky and 2010’s New Inheritors (Welcome to the Night Sky being the album that Pam introduced me to them with). Title-ish track “Hum” opens with a buzz, a crash, and a rattle, and resolves itself into a pounding dance track with distorted vocals and clear as a bell piano pulling the song forward on a melody line. Wintersleep is a band like that; a band that forces you to listen carefully, intimately, to hear the thru-lines in their songs. The complexity and layers of their music is nearly impossible to replicate or describe, but they’re challenges and they’re puzzles to be understood.
But they also burst with joyous, danceable energy, like “In Came The Flood” with its chorus of praise in the background and its relentlessly sunny churning multi-layered guitars, and “Nothing Is Anything (Without You)”, a foot-stomping hand-clapping moment of clarity in an album that wraps most of its feelings under noise and clatter. (It’s a pretty perfect love song, that one, as well.)
The record shimmers with enormous guitar parts and that pealing bell of synthesizers and piano, driven forward — I laughed to realize that this was a dance record as much as it was an indie rock record — by skittering, syncopated drumming from Loel Campbell. It soars, it sighs, it twists and turns in places you would never expect it to. On first listen it may sound like rattle and hum, a puzzle without a key; on second listen it starts to come together, a broken heart of an album that uses its sounds, its words, to give you not a melody line, a hook, a catchy riff you’ll remember, but rather a feeling that lodges in that soft spot under your heart, the place you keep secrets.
Which is what I turn to Wintersleep for; songs that make me feel, rather than think.