J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Now Departing

His Name is Alive
Xmmer
(Reincarnate ; 2007)


His Name is Alive has been a challenge for me over the years. Ever since I first began exploring their music, I have had to reconcile exactly what I thought of them over and over again. My entry into their world was 1996's gorgeous Stars on ESP, but their sound has changed in various ways since then. Still there's no mistaking a His Name is Alive record for anything else. Warren Defever et. al. hit a new stride with 2006's Detrola, their first full length not released on the legendary 4AD label. Its mix of electronic samples and effects gave a new, colder feeling that juxtaposed impressively with the warm, siren-like female vocals of Andrea Morici.

Xmmer both picks up and abandons where Detrola left off. The album opens with two lulling, mood building songs in "Youngblood" and "Go to Hell Mountain," the latter holding a lot of the 60's pop-feel that dominated Stars on ESP. This is also the most rocking His Name is Alive record in some time. Tracks like "The Wolf Put His Mouth On Me," "Sangaree," and the album closing "Come to Me" have driving beats that propel various textured guitar, keyboard rhythms, and in the case of "Come to Me," a repeating horn section. "Put It In Your Mind," on the other hand, sails along on a bluesy, relaxed vibe that suits the vocals in a way that would be welcome as the theme for an entire record, let alone just one track.

The album has a more organic feel than Detrola and this makes it a bit easier to approach. Sometimes the vocal performances of Morici, much like those of all of HNIA's past lead vocalists, while lovely, can be very similar all the way through. There's little to no variation in the way the songs are sung from track to track, despite the changes in the backing parts. And while this creates an interesting standard for songs to pivot around, it's always been an odd stance to take. It risks making listeners feel that songs that are disparate in style are actually more similar than they truly are.

Despite that, Xmmer is among the most engaging records His Name is Alive has ever recorded and it is a suitable continuation of the path and muse that Warren Defever has seemed to follow with his music.

Rating: E(xcellent)

(Rating scale: A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y)

Decide For Yourself:

His Name is Alive - Go to Hell Mountain

His Name is Alive - Put It In Your Mind

His Name is Alive - Come to Me



Download this album from EMusic

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