Album: Death Wave
Release Date: May 21, 2010
When considering the number of artists that traverse the country daily for performances, band practice or simple self-promotion, the three-hour journey between Champaign-Urbana and Chicago doesn’t appear to be that daunting.
For others, however, that “small” journey can be just what an act needs to ignite its flames and release a remarkable debut.
Now, this is not meant as any disrespect towards either Post Historic (vocalist/guitarist Yoo Soo Kim and drummer Zach Benkowski’s previous Champaign-Urbana-based act), or Champaign-Urbana itself (home of my alma mater and a superbly talented community of musicians), but rather as the highest form of compliment towards the debut album from Chicago five-piece Hemmingbirds.
The album opens with the breezy “The New Age,” a folk-inspired track with a quick transitional ending and harmonies that call to mind the current vocal prowess of acts like Seattle’s Fleet Foxes. The men of Hemmingbirds are clearly talented both vocally and instrumentally, not relying on either element to solely carry the group.
With that being said, it is the third track that screams “single,” as “Treetops” is catchy and light with a quick vocal opening and strummed, guitar-based outro. A song that shares, “The rain falls down for hours as we wait for the day we are flying and flying through trees. Sailing outside. In our yard we’re flying and flying through trees. Going outside,” its message is one of adventure, moving beyond rather than remaining stagnant.
At nearly seven minutes in length, the album’s longest track, “Slippery Slope,” is also its standout. A haunting, guitar-drive number that pummels into its final minutes with lyrics that seem to taunt:
If jealousy is a gun
Then I’ll shoot it straight out at you
Infuriate your body
Infuriate your mind
Get you cold inside
The words are deliberate, desperate even, as guitar levels are softened and background sound is minimal for the pointed message.
Despite the number of catchy, pop-influenced tracks on the first half of the album, I tend to prefer Hemmingbirds at their loudest, in more raw elements like the aforementioned “Slippery Slope,” or its precursor, “Perpetuator,” a fuzzy pop track that wouldn’t be out of place on a ’90s mixtape.
In either regard, Death Wave is a solid album from start to finish, endlessly accessible and easily recommendable.
- Hemmingbirds, based in Lincolnwood, is Laurence Almalvez, Zach Benkowski, Timothy Cap, Brian Choi and Yoo Soo Kim.
- Death Wave is available on the group’s Bandcamp page. The CD sells for $10; mp3s are “name your own price.”
- Catch Hemmingbirds as they play Beat Kitchen on October 1 with Mutts, Archie Powell & the Exports and Glittermouse. Tickets are $8.
Hemmingbirds performing an acoustic version of “Perpetuator”