Monday, 2 March 2015

Hope & Social - Sleep Sound (2011)

Sometimes in life, by chance you stumble upon something really great. One day on, I was browsing through albums by genre, probably the difficult to define genre of “alternative,” when I stumbled upon this record. I think I was caught by its beautiful cover art. I clicked and then I listened and I knew that this was quality work and from that moment on I was a Hope & Social fan. I was actually planning on reviewing this months ago, but then I moved and forgot about it for a time. But I have now remembered and I wish to share my enthusiasm for this record for anyone who is willing to read.

Sleep Sound is their third full length album and probably their most fully realized. It's a diverse, but very consistent collection of songs. Their music is a clever blend of a few genres, merging gospel, ska, folk, and rock'n'roll. It all comes together so naturally that it feels like a style of their very own. I honestly can't think of a band with a sound similar to them. Though, as far as ambition and quality of work goes, I could see them fitting nicely in with Canada's own Arts & Crafts record label. Though Hope & Social are actually from Leeds, England, showing that there is a promising independent music scene on the other side of the Atlantic also.

Every song has a bit of a different personality, some are fun and win you over with their upbeat charm. Others feel much more personal and restrained. Though, what works is that every song comes across as very genuine. They're clearly labours of love and mean a lot to the Hope & Social. It's just old fashioned good, honest song writing and that's something that makes it easy to connect to. Their music emotes very strongly, but not in a typical way. A lot of the time when we think of emotional music, we associate it with sadness, but this album covers a greater range than that. We hear moments that are joyful, sombre, passionate, and contemplative. No songs drain me though. Even through the slower pieces, I feel encouraged and inspired.

What sets Sleep Sound apart from their previous albums is the increased richness of their sound, this time with an added brass section, which was sparsely used in their second album April. This time it's a much more pronounced sound, adding a lot of character to the tunes. One of my favourite sounds in the world is an appropriately placed trumpet and there are a few of those moments in this album. Most of the time they still are at heart a rock band and they never feel like they're straying too far from their genre, which is fortunately very flexible.

My love for this album grows each time I listen to it, every song connecting with me and leaving a lasting impression. My favourites? “Rolling Sideways” is great fun and has a great piano track. “Cotton Wool” sets a great emotional landscape, giving a sense of longing and distance. It's quite beautiful. It's followed by “Them Rolling Boys” which is a more edgy track, and certainly one of the strongest as it has the most satisfying progression and rocks the hardest throughout. The final track “Fast Train” is another terrific track, that feels like it's taking me on a long journey, leaving me wanting more. I guess I'll have to wait until their next album though.

What is encouraging is that Hope & Social are a band that seem comfortable in their own skin. Their music is strong and confident and they give the listener the choice of how much they want to pay for it. Not only with the digital copy, but the physical ones as well. You can download it for free or the disc is available for simply the cost of producing it and shipping. All they ask is that you pay them what you feel the album is worth, which is a difficult thing for a musician to ask, particularly when they pour so much work into their art. I would encourage you to give Sleep Sound a listen and if you share my enthusiasm, why not support the music?

5 Stars

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