Wednesday, April 13, 2011

wallscenery demos: "Half Awake. Half Asleep." (album review)

In 2009, wallscenery demos, the project from Toronto-born James Hicken, really surprised me.  It was a quick grower, blossoming into one of my favorite albums of that year.  On May 3 he returns with his third full length album from the 'group', Half Asleep. Half Awake.

Musically, there hasn't been much change in sound between albums.  The opener, "gotta watch out for a year", lets you know right up front that this will be a similarly hushed vocals awash with ambient arrangements that we've heard before.

The title track is a haunting, Jesus & Mary Chain-style ballad.  The ramshackle shake of "get my act together" is hypnotic despite it's more organic texture.  Clips from The Big Lebowski push the narrative of "money lebowski" along.  The head-bopper "rest my mind" boasts surgically precise percussion.

Some more hooks and melodies would be welcome among the nebulous swirl.  With the exception of the la la la la refrain of "wrote" there is little that will sate a pop ear.  Elsewhere, the sluggish "i feel we should" is a let down near the end of the record.

Half Asleep. Half Awake. doesn't grip me the way wallscenery demos' debut did.  That's probably because it's not a surprise to me.  It's still some of the freshest sounding music you're likely to hear this year, it's just not the transcendent experience of the first one.

Best tracks: "wrote", "rest my mind"

Track listing for Half Asleep. Half Awake.:
  • gotta watch out for a year
  • half asleep. half awake
  • 14 and falling
  • get my act together
  • wrote
  • money lebowski
  • rest my mind
  • i feel we should
  • half asleep theme song/the club is open
wallscenery demos' website

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