The Witch Hazel Sound – The World, Then the Fireworks

The Witch Hazel Sound
The World, Then the Fireworks

I probably wouldn’t have bought this album based on any reviews I would have read, simply because any description of it wouldn’t sound like something I would normally enjoy. That being said, this will go down as one of my favorite releases of the year, undoubtedly, and perhaps the best purely pop album that I’ve heard in years.

The Witch Hazel Sound are clearly influenced by 60’s popsters like the Beach Boys and the Byrds, but they’re equally fitting into the more psychedelic pop circles of such Elephant 6 luminaries as Of Montreal and The Minders. Centered around their use of organ on every track and adding in horns to compliment the guitars and drums and perfectly smooth pop vocals, The Witch Hazel Sound have created music that’s light and fun yet intricate and freshly unique. Never before has something made me want to know all the lyrics so I can sing along and dance along at once on just the first listen, and this release just gets better with repeated spins.

The stellar opening “Music Becomes Vibration” has gorgeous, swirling keyboards/organs and beautiful female vocals that lend it a charming and light feel. It’s a nice introduction for the more 50’s influenced “2 or 3 Things I Know About Her,” with its smooth male vocals and slightly more up-tempo beat. The lyrics show their psychedelic bent: “maybe next year / or in the future / I’ll hold fast to her.” But the band also has a more playful side, as shown on “Fireworks,” which has hints of a Neutral Milk Hotel feel to it. Occasional spacey atmospherics merge with the wistful pop melodies and textures to give the band a dreamy feel ala Mercury Rev on songs like “Blue City,” and “Sun Horse Moon Horse,” in addition to sounding like the title of a Neil Young song, also has a strong acoustic element to its more subtle feel.

The light horns and poppy feel to “Kiss Tomorrow” is vintage 60’s, and it’s a wonderful pop song, perhaps my favorite on the album. “Halo of Brass” pours on the organ heavily, which works surprisingly well with such slick instrumentation and vocals. More than just the opening line, “Hello darkness fill my soul,” makes “Kiss Me Monster” sound like a folk-influenced pop song ala the Byrds. The light guitar and soft rhythm and vocals helps too. When the organs kick in and the song picks up, this turns into one of the coolest, most unique pop songs in recent memory. Again, the band shines on “Ballad of Constance Money,” perhaps the catchiest and more light-hearted, playful pop song on the release. The lyrics have a bit more of a serious side, however: “When you feel unhappy / there’s no pill to take its place / rely on empty promise / cut down the human race.” Piano and soft horn close the album with “The Boy with Green Hair.”

Sometimes the best music comes from areas you’d never expect. This album has been on constant rotation in my CD player, mostly for its relentlessly poppy and charming melodies and wonderful vocals. Catchy and fun yet dreamy and slick, this is a fantastic release that will make any Beach Boys or Elephant 6 fan swoon for sure.