by Hal

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Hal are destined to be compared to the Thrills: both groups are from Ireland; both are purveyors of ultra-hooky, dramatic vocal harmony-drenched tunes with a West Coat slant; and both are very, very good. Once you get past the surface comparisons, though, there are enough differences to reduce the similarities to a happy coincidence. Hal certainly aren't ripping off the Thrills; there is far too much exuberance and excitement on their debut album for them to be written off as mere imitators. They lack the pretension and arch concept of the Thrills; they also have more emotional depth and a more relaxed feel. Besides, they just might be better anyway. The first two songs give the Thrills and just about anyone else a serious run: "What a Lovely Dance" is a chiming mini-epic that encompasses walls of guitars, humming synthesizers and organs, lyrics about lost mittens and messed-up hair, spiraling falsetto harmonies, and a totally alive sound that feels like you have your fingers knuckle deep in a light socket, and the Edwyn Collins-produced "Play the Hits" is a star-spangled blast of sunshine and manic energy that is hard to listen to without picturing Hal racing around like the Monkees on the beach as brothers Dave and Paul Allen croon and careen through wall of bells, maracas, and Motown guitars. The rest of the record is no real letdown either, as the Allens' vocals are a constant treat and the group proves itself equally adept at laid-back ballads that utilize subtle string arrangements (the aching "Keep Love As Your Golden Rule," "I Sat Down"); gentle, summery rockers ("Don't Come Running," the falsetto-drenched "Fools By Your Side"); and even arena-friendly soft rock ballads (the weighty "Worry About the Wind," which shows bands like Coldplay that you can be serious and deep without being boring). Echoes of the Beatles, Harry Nilsson, the Beach Boys, and Phil Spector are everywhere, and while those aren't exactly unique or even very interesting reference points in 2005, Hal again go beyond imitation and use their influences as a good band should, as guides and not blueprints. Hal really sound like another in the long line of melodic bands from the British Isles that has been dazzling music fans since the late '90s -- think Super Furry Animals, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, and (again, in case you forgot) the Thrills. Add some American groups like Mercury Rev at their poppiest and a choir-less Polyphonic Spree, or Canadians like the Heavy Blinkers, and if that list sounds like your record collection, you shouldn't think twice about adding Hal. They'll be stuck in your CD player for weeks, guaranteed.

Product Details

Release Date: 01/01/2007
Label: Rough Trade
UPC: 5050159816026
catalogNumber: 5981602

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Hal   Primary Artist
Paul Archibald   Trumpet
Clive Deamer   Percussion,Drums
Richard Edwards   Trombone
Jim Sleigh   Viola
Stephen McDonnell   Trumpet
Ian Humphries   Violin
Richard Watkins   Horn
Philip Sheppard   Cello
Owen Slade   Tuba
Karl Ronan   Trombone
Zoe Martlew   Cello
Johnny Scott   Mandolin,Pedal Steel Guitar
Nicolette Kuo   Violin
Stephen O'Brien   Keyboards
Gavin Roche   Bass Trombone
Steve Hogan   Drums
Dave Allen   Bass,Guitar,Vocals
Paul Allen   Guitar,Bass Guitar,Vocals
Michael Thompson   Horn
Stephen O'Brien   Keyboards

Technical Credits

Edwyn Collins   Producer,Audio Production
Donna Allen   Composer
Ian Stanley   Producer,Engineer,Audio Production
Kieran Lynch   Engineer
Philip Sheppard   String Arrangements,Bass Arrangement
Hal   Producer
C.E. Mullan   Arranger,Composer

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