Hinkley – Frail and Poker Faced EP

Frail and Poker Faced EP

I suppose I’ve been a bit spoiled. After living for several years outside of Washington, DC, and then in Denver, Colorado, I’ve come to expect a strong local music scene. So moving to the small upstate city of Rochester, NY, I was a bit disappointed. All I heard about or saw at the clubs were heavy-metal cover bands and hard-rock bar bands. Sure, some of them were probably pretty good, but I was still disappointed.

Slowly, over the few years I’ve lived here, I’ve come to discover that there are a surprising number of talented local Rochester bands. They may not play as many shows at local clubs, and they may be harder to uncover, but the ones I was lucky enough to discover have proved me wrong about my initial opinion of the city. And, just maybe, Hinkley is the cream of the crop.

The six-piece band is a fantastic combination of indie rock in the vein of Pavement or Built to Spill, with hints of more Americana ambitions a la Wilco and Sparklehorse. A nice mix of guitars and piano and assorted instruments, led by Will Veeder’s strong voice (which remind me a bit of Clem Snide’s Eef Barzelay), makes these five songs in the first of a series of EPs extremely strong.

I love the way the album opens up, with some toy piano sounds and gorgeous female vocals before the guitars and drums kick in on “Superman,” taking things into a nicely flowing track with some great edgy guitars. “Cocaine” is more folky, a kind of alt-country vibe with a nice male/female vocal combination. The best song here is the middle track, the upbeat, poppy, incredibly fun “The Queen of May,” which has the best feel of Neutral Milk Hotel and bands of that ilk. The title track is a bit more laid-back, a nice indie-pop song that flirts with an acoustic alt-country flair, and the closer, “Lonesome Whistle,” is incredibly infectious. Upbeat and poppy, the production isn’t as good here, but the vocals are so good and the guitars and rhythm so catchy, that it makes me want to start the EP all over again.

I really, really like this band, and it may almost do Hinkley a disservice by starting this review with the whole ‘local band’ approach. These folks have the talent and uniqueness to go far beyond Rochester. But I hope they will embrace their roots, and one day when they’re playing the big venues in cities around the country, I can say they’re Rochester folks who made good. And I wouldn’t be in the least surprised.