Hemenway - The Music

review - 05.02.2014 00:01

This huge debut album is a a bit of a mixed bag.

After their indie mini-album release back in 2012, the rock four-piece Hemenway are back with their debut major album. At a whopping 18 tracks long it appears that they've spent their time churning out plenty of content for The Music, released Christmas Day 2013.

Included within the 18 tracks are some that first appeared on their digital 2012 mini-album URAHEME Welcome to the Other Side, namely Gensou to Dance, Anosa and the fantastic GET UP (previously reviewed here). The new songs are varied and show off the guys' musical skills, honed at the Berklee College of Music in Boston where they all met.

The majority of the album is composed of upbeat pop-rock. By My Side, featured in the hit anime series "Naruto Shippuden", has the typical combination of the bright chorus and simple chord progression that provides a catchy tune, but not a great deal of excitement otherwise. Others emulating this format include Hana Furu Yoru, Mayoi michi no ue de and Hibana, although the latter is redeemed by talented lead guitarist Charm's impressive solos. There are elements of playfulness as heard in the twinkly synth of cheerful title track The Music, a dancey, uninhibited celebration of the band's vocation and passion. There's also the hand-clappy happiness of the overwhelmingly chirpy Future Kousatsu.

A heavier rock sound can be heard in the likes of GET UP, the creative Anosa and the feisty Hanbun Ningen. The latter has a punchy rat-a-tat opening in which the guitar and bass are pounded in time with drummer Toshi's quick fire tom strikes. The effect is repeated throughout to get the blood pumping in this truely fired up track, which is packed with a dramatic string ensemble and powerful vocals from singer Isaac. Charm also gets an opportunity to demonstrate his flashy finger work at the end. It's a great example of the energy which the band is able to inject into their work when the mood takes them. Escape, used as the opening theme for "Eureka Seven AO", is one of the few tracks composed by Isaac instead of principle writer Charm, and starts off in more of that familiar pop tone but then surprisingly turns up the volume for a satisfyingly rocky second half.

tonight is a nice departure from the majority of bright pop-rock tracks. It's the band's take on the emotional anthem, although the synth at the start is a bit diversionary. It has all the ingredients for a rousing song - the high, inspirational guitar riff, the climactic chorus and reverberating "oh oh"s that follow are just crying out for mass arm waving at a concert. That said, it is one of the better songs to be found on the album and is successfully stirring. You'll find yourself singing along before you even realise it.

The soft pop-rock Inori and the ballad Will You Stay? are on the slower end of the spectrum. The former is a light, upbeat pop song which allows Isaac to give a mellow, breathy performance and flex his vocal range in a falsetto-heavy chorus for a different experience. Will You Stay is a more emotive piece. It begins with a slow string and drum backing before exploding into a full rock ballad which relies on a stronger vocal delivery from the frontman. The low-key Goodbye is a simple yet moving piece about loss, bringing in the musical stylings of Coldplay with a hint of Radiohead peeking in occasionally. It is the only track written entirely in English, although many of the albums songs contain some English lyrics due to Isaac and Charm's American upbringings.

The Music definitely carries on from where URAHEME Welcome to the Other Side left off, although a couple of the best tracks are in fact from that last album. It was previously hoped that Hemenway might decide to take off in the heavy rock direction, as they excel in this field, but it appears that they have chosen to sit more firmly on the pop-rock line with the odd dip either side of the divide. While this is slightly disappointing, with their undeniable talent and musical prowess (not to mention the TV tie-ins) Hemenway are likely to do well whatever genre they choose.
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