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Subaudible Hum

In Time for Spring, On Came the Snow

(Darla; US: 9 Sep 2008; UK: 27 Oct 2006)

Subaudible Hum’s name certainly implies something subtle. And they are at their best on this record when they opt for the less obvious approach. While their big, orchestral pop doesn’t necessarily lend itself to being soft spoken, and certainly belies their name, sometimes their compositions are can be intricate and infectious. The swell-to-burst build-up of “Journey Around the World”, the moody organ-laced hush in “All for the Caspian”, and the fuzzy driving bass on “Aaron’s Western Assault”, are the best examples of the band combining string arrangements and echoed riffs and lilting vocal harmonies to make compositions that sound full without being bloated. But what these songs really hinge on is Daniel Griffith’s vocals. These tracks find his keening wail at its most tempered, and that is when it works best. Unfortunately, on tracks like “Sugarcoat” Griffith’s performance is far too strident, and his over-singing drowns out the careful compositions underneath. It’s a misstep he makes too often on the album, and it makes for a very uneven set of songs. When they get it right, their sound can be as subtle as their name suggests, while still being big enough to pack a surprise or two. But to get it right more often in the future, they’re going to have to get Griffin to reign it in a little.

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Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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