The Hand In The Ocean

Tree / Forts

Written by: TL on 27/12/2013 19:30:35

"I want to see you try your hardest so I can feel worse when the inevitable happens". This rather emo excerpt is lifted from the spoken muttered-word intro track "Moss Wine", which opens the debut record "Tree / Forts" by Detroit trio The Hand In The Ocean, and I pull it out both because it's the first thing that stands out to me on the seven song record, and because it gives you the useful hint that despite the music circling mainly around acoustic guitar and banjo here, this record is still arguably as emo as it is folk.

While the guitar and banjo swirl around each other behind the mumbling of "Moss Wine" almost sounding like improvisation, they fall into lockstep for the following numbers "White Noise" and "Brackish", on which the banjo is plucked with sentimental feeling on top of a core of guitar chords and actual singing soon commences. Creaking like old floor boards, the vocals are likely to be a point of contention among new listeners, as some will probably be annoyed, while anyone who's used to American emo or post-rock should feel right at home here. There's a stretch in the beginning of "Brackish" that even I find a bit too faux-old-fashioned but outside of its reach, the opening duo is otherwise tender enough to have a feeling of urgency, and you're likely to soon be repeating along to lines like "Your clothes reek of rain" or "I saw you and I felt more than I could ignore".

At this point, opening "Porches" with piano notes and glockenspiel already feels like a dramatic break in style, but it's only an interlude before "Bottomfeeder" commences the record's second half with mainly those instruments accompanying the guitars, of which there's also suddenly an electric. Unfortunately the extra diversity doesn't obscure the fact that the song meanders a bit, and of the remaining tracks, it's only really a charming banjo doodle towards the end of "Recompressed" that lures my attention as much as the EP's opening half. On one hand I could probably be caught finding the spoken word and high strung vocals here a bit pretentious if I was in a crankier mood, but after a few listens the frailness of them did at least get me halfway interested to find out what the songs were about.

The short of it though, is that I think The Hand In The Ocean has the kind of peculiar style that will probably find them on a label like Deep Elm or Count Your Lucky Stars at some point, happily plucking banjos and subtly tremoloing electrics while confessing intricate, personal lyrics to a tightly defined niche audience. Hopefully that prediction should help you determine if "Tree / Forts" is something for you in the first place, while I'll just go ahead and assess that despite some moments that grow on you, I don't think the songs here have quite the impact yet, of somewhat similar bands like a Caravela or the murkier and considerably more famous mewithoutYou.

Download: Brackish, White Noise, Moss Wine
For The Fans Of: Caravela, mewithoutYou, Battle Creek, The Migrant

Release Date 15.06.2013
Timber Records / Save Your Generation Records

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