Music

The Unwinding Hours: The Unwinding Hours

Veterans of the band Aerogramme start a new project that combines dreamy indie-pop songs with massive wall-of-guitar tracks. The results are middling.


The Unwinding Hours

The Unwinding Hours

Label: Chemikal Underground
US Release Date: 2010-03-16
UK Release Date: 2010-02-15
Amazon
iTunes

The Unwinding Hours self-titled debut comes plagued with the same problems a lot of fledgling indie-pop outfits seem to have these days. Over the course of a 45-minute album, the duo of Craig B. and Iain Cook mix quieter songs with big, wall-of-sound guitar tracks. The issue is that their sound isn't particularly distinctive, and that the songwriting isn't quite strong enough to make up for that lack of sonic character. What's more surprising, then, is that B. and Cook aren't newbies just starting out, but veterans of the now-defunct Scottish band Aereogramme, who released four albums of their own in the '00s.

This isn't to say that The Unwinding Hours is straight-up bad, because it isn't. There are several standout tracks on the album that illustrate how good these guys can be when they're firing on all cylinders. But just as much of the material is mediocre, forgettable dream-pop. The album opens with "Knut", a slow-building six-minute song anchored by the simple refrain, "If we can / We will / We must / Get out!" The drums, bass, and piano all grow steadily in size over the first four minutes, while squalling guitar slowly draws more and more of the focus until it all explodes in the final two minutes. It's a bracing start that combines a strong pop focus with an Explosions in the Sky-style build-up and release. That's followed with "Tightrope", a straightforward, angsty indie-rock song, and then "Little One", a quieter, tender lost-love song.

By fourth track "There Are Worse Things Than Being Alone", an even quieter acoustic lost-love song, the Unwinding Hours have pretty much squandered that promising opening with run-of-the-mill indie-pop. More squalling guitar and electronic noise creeps into the end of this fourth song, but it has far less impact than it did the first time they used the trick. It isn't until "Peaceful Liquid Shell", the album's sixth track, that something interesting finally happens again. A low, loooow bass tone opens the song, quickly followed by Craig B.'s weird, compelling lyric "Let it be known that I am well / Stuck in this peaceful liquid shell." Anchored by a simple but rhythmically creative drumbeat, the song cleverly works in a piano countermelody and judiciously uses the wall-of-sound guitar effect.

The album's second half is slightly less frustrating than the first. "Child" is a decently dark minor-key song with a few cool guitar lines. "Traces" moves at a glacial pace, but the lyrics at least seem heartfelt and the ethereal-sounding guitar part gives the song at least the idea of motion. "Annie Jane" is a mid-tempo track with a melancholy piano line, pounding drums, and crashing cymbals that make it sound like the album's cathartic closer, but it's not. Instead, The Unwinding Hours finishes with "The Final Hour". That song starts almost unbearably quiet, with B.'s vocals barely above a whisper, accompanied by soft guitar. And halfway through it bursts into full volume with guitars and drums pounding out half-notes. It's an intense moment, but it's diluted by the fact that the band has already used almost the same ploy at least twice on the album.

And so, despite writing mostly quieter indie-pop songs, the Unwinding Hours manages to leave the impression that they are a huge guitar wall-of-sound band. It's because the big guitar songs are much more memorable than the underwritten quieter material. While the band shows flashes of potential, their self-titled debut album leaves a lot to be desired.

5

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image