“A Fire On A Hill”
July 23, 2013 - Rise
Australian emotional rockers Hands Like Houses probably shouldn’t have named their second album Unimagine: too many easy jokes about it being unimaginative and all of that. Songs like “A Fire On A Hill” and “Introduced Species” have all the right ingredients of emotive rock: the crooning singer, sweeping guitars, dabblings of keyboards and piano, and a gaggle of background vocals. The verses are pensive and the choruses are somewhat triumphant, but after repeated listens to the 11 tracks on Unimagine, nothing really sticks. As background music for that long drive into work, this is fine, but it’s not the kind of go-to album that you’d put on if you want to get pumped up for the day. Trenton Woodley’s vocal style is the biggest obstacle from keeping this in anyone’s regular rotation; his raspy, strained emoting gets tired really fast, especially on mid-tempo anthems like “A Tale of Outer Suburbia” where it sounds like he got full license to put his heart on his sleeve and just belt it out, with less-than-successful results. Then there’s “Oceandust,” a piano-driven ballad that’s just kind of… there. The production on Unimagine is top-notch, some of the songs have really interesting progressions (the guitar work in “Fountainhead” brings to mind later-era Thrice), but the overall package is just dull.