Comprised of members Geoff Halliday (vocals and keyboards), Ryan Sweeney (guitar), Alex Staniloff (bass), and Sean Hess (drums), Hands’ sound is eclectic, possessing the anthemic, gritty elements of rock, the danceability and grooviness of pop, and the bubbly, brilliant nature of electronic music. Never dull, if sometimes overambitious, Hands deliver an overall enjoyable and promising effort. “Trouble” sets the tone, with a solid groove established from the onset. Halliday’s lead vocals are highly expressive and enthusiastic. The chorus is predictably larger in scope, conforming to rock standards while the bridge incorporates contrast, adding more synthesized sounds. Building upon Synesthesia’s strong first impression, “Videolove” keeps up the opener’s momentum, continuing consistency. Opening moodily with an array of sound effects, things stabilize as the groove is established by pounding drums and continual rhythm. The chorus is simple, yet catchy (“video love, video love, video love … ”). Even so, the layered vocal lines, are among the track’s biggest attributes.
“Elegant Road” opens with softer-sounding synths that crescendo brilliantly. Halliday’s vocals are well produced by all means, even when the lyrics are less decipherable on the verses (it’s alt-rock!). Harmonically, the progression is smooth and simple while the overall sound continues to shimmer with brilliance. “Brave Motion” and “The Game is Changing Us” equally captivate, closing the opening quintet magnificently. On “Brave”, the tempo is quick and the groove nothing short of infectious. “And it makes no sense, makes no sense, makes no sense, you’re in love gain …,” Halliday sings passionately. On “The Game is Changing Us”, the timbre remains ‘sunny’ with production anchored by Sweeney’s rhythmic guitar, Staniloff’s fat bass, and Hess’s big drums. Hands are five for five.
The second half of Synesthesia remains pleasant, though never reaches the same excellence of the stacked first half. “House of Jars” and “Lonesome Body” are the longest songs of the set, but the duration ultimately doesn’t compromise their solidness. “Lonesome Body” is the catchier of the two, conveying addictive instrumental ideas as well as lyrical ones. On “Kinetic”, the groove remains driving, though more relaxed. More shocking, the key is minor as opposed to major! Even so, Halliday gets cutesy, performing neutral syllables on the chorus, capped off by the lyric, “Kinetic!” Keeping things brief, “Kinetic” features some great guitar riffs (Sweeney). Penultimate cut “Nothing But Animals” oscillates at times between guitar- and electronic-driven ideas; both work splendidly alongside Halliday’s enthused lead. Closer “Take It All” doesn’t quite match opener “Trouble” in quality, but does match its jubilance and overall energy.
All-in-all, Synesthesia is a fine start for Hands. The band benefits from its creativity and most impressively, its unique sound. Not without flaws, the brilliant first half proves to be a hard act for the second half to match with similar or equal brilliance. That said, with no deal breakers, and a boatload of potential, Hands provides more than enough for some alt-music thrills.
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// Notes from the Road
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