You know it was a great year when one of the single worst things that befell you was discovering a band too late in order to see them live in your city. Such was the case with Houndmouth in 2012, whose EP I was just digging into as they were finishing their run as part of CMJ Music Marathon in New York. I was this close to taking in a show. Regrettably, I missed out. In the end, though, catching wind of them as they left town turned out to be a fortuitous event, even if a consolation prize.
An amalgamation of blues, rock, and folk, Houndmouth blends stories of down-and-out characters with near-perfect instrumentation. All four Houndmouth members – the former Saint James Hotel’s Katie Toupin and Matt Myers along with Shade Cody and Zak Appleby – all share vocal duties, harmonizing to create a big, rich, evangelical chorus of sorts. The lyrics are delivered soulfully and usually concern themselves with troubles of the legal, substance, and spiritual kind.
The recurring comparison in the blogosphere is that Houndmouth are a contemporary reshaping of The Band. This has some validity, and one can easily imagine “Houston Train” being slipped into the setlist for “The Last Waltz” with anachronistic aplomb. Even given their clear influences, however, Houndmouth seems to take the best of their genre – the rootsy, countrified style of indie rock that continues to surge toward the mainstream – and shine it up into something wholly beautiful, all while being both nonchalant and painstakingly careful. They wail into the microphone without losing control; they deliver rough-riding music without any unfinished edges. They are simply impressive.
What makes them even more so is that they are just over a year old as a band. Formed in November 2011, they have already achieved a record deal and a standout EP, not to mention a steady buzz on the interwebs. In a way, their indie-chic flannel shirts and full spectrum of facial hair seriousness belie their musical and lyrical artistry. If you saw these guys (and girl) walking down the street in say Williamsburg, you might be tempted to dismiss them as just a few more hipsters in the ‘hood. However, get them behind their respective musical tools and they will demonstrate a control over their talent that is rare for a band – and perhaps too for individual artists – so young. Whatever one’s first impressions, though, Houndmouth is comprised of four solid musicians who are fully capable of capturing both the big and small elements of life all within the same four-minute track. This writer anticipates big things ahead for the band.
If other reviews, as well as listening to their EP, have yet failed to sell you on this up-and-coming band, I’m closing out this post with a list of reasons why you should lend your ears to Houndmouth in 2013:
1. Obviously, we have to start with the EP itself.
2. This guitar solo.
3. Katie Toupin’s voice. (Slices through warbling electric organ and ride cymbal like Bill Maher through Republican bullshit.)
4. The fact that drummer Shane Cody percusses to perfection without a devoted crash cymbal. Unconventional and appreciated.
5. The lasting hope that New Yorkers (myself naturally included) will have a chance to see them live in the city, even given their current tour dates out in the middle and abroad