House of Hats: This Love

With cross-cutting vocal harmonies and menacing purity, This Love is a cohesive statement by a band that is a welcomed voice in a genre of acoustic clutter.

House of Hats

This Love

Label: Willow Walk
US Release Date: 2014-06-10
UK Release Date: 2014-03-24

In 1992, Cracker's wily frontman David Lowery posited "What the world needs now / Is another folk singer / Like I need a hole in my head" on “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)”. More than two decades later said genre is tired and overpopulated. With no sign of a drought of bands looking to ape the sound of what is considered modern folk music, do we need yet another British band enamored with acoustic instrumentation and bearing an obtuse name?

"Disregard what some might say / Time is a pleasure that's mine to waste / Give me patience and show me grace / I am the king of the average pace". When it comes to Brighton, UK’s House of Hats, any pretense is banished by “King of the Average Pace”, the third song on their debut LP, This Love. This proclamation of normalcy and the obvious harmonies that abound on the resolute This Love quickly endear House of Hats as a docent act in their chosen field. Aside from pretty vocals, it is the sharp duality of the This Love's songs that make that it a repeated listen. Tension and defiance underlay the album’s scarce instrumentation; the dark promises that reside in the creases of This Love are at once hopeful and also veiled threats. Never knowing which, House of Hats keep one guessing.

On first listen, "Close to Me" is a simple love song, yet upon further inspection the possibility of something more sinister appears: "No matter where you go I'm with you / No matter what the people say / I like it when you're close to me / Not so far out." Think "Every Breath You Take" by the Police. "Right Behind You", sung by female vocalist Al-Anoud "Noddy" Al-Omran, is more straightforward in its approach: "My gaze is fixed on you / I'm right behind you / I'm right behind you / Until you feel the same way as I do." No less powerful is the existential "No Man", with Al-Omran wailing a tale of global solitude in the lines, "Voices haunt me but no one hears my call" and "An army of stars shine on me / But no one's looking."

Produced by Pete Smith (Sting, Joe Cocker, Sheryl Crow), House of Hats are in good hands. Smith leverages the vocal interplay between Al-Omran and Gigante to great extent, drawing both levity and gravity from the songs on This Love. The traded verses on standout ballad "Gold" showcase both the group's restraint and power. The crystalline promise of the album's opening title track as sung by Gigante is all but shattered in its elegiac closing reprise mournfully sung by Al-Omran. The band's influences show on the piano hymn, "Home Is Where the Heart Is", with its nod to Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water", with Al-Omran urging, "Rest assured you're not alone / I've seen heartache like you've never have known / Wait and try to never shed a tear / Home is where the heart is and I am always near." This mix of comfort and sorrow set House of Hats apart from their peers, yet they and Smith fall prey to the now-all-too-familiar bass thump on the lilting centerpiece "Joanne" that marks the album's only shortcoming.

With cross-cutting vocal harmonies and menacing purity, This Love is a cohesive statement by a band that is a welcomed voice in a genre of acoustic clutter. As for the band's name: it was derived from the band's former house where they would hold wild parties. Ukelele player James Kuszewski remarked these events were reminiscent of the Mad Hatter's tea parties from Alice in Wonderland. As a band that fails to take itself too seriously, the moniker is fitting a fitting one. It's safe to say with This Love House of Hats have proven Lowery wrong.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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

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