Hood – Outside Closer

Outside Closer

Hood’s music has always been loaded with imagery. For me, that image has always been of an ancient sundial on a cold day, slowly decaying under a green blanket of mossy lichens, touched gently by those rays of sunlight which manage to penetrate the dense forested ceiling above. The band’s latest album, Outside Closer, fits perfectly into this image. One of the most amazing things about Hood’s music is that it exudes cold, frigid air and green life simultaneously. This juxtaposition parallels another; Hood plays lush indie rock tinged with obviously synthetic computer manipulations, and despite this apparent clash, the end result manages to be alternately vital and mechanical.

“Any Hopeful Thoughts” is a perfect example of this dualistic nature. Chilly guitar plucks resonate crisply beneath Chris Hood’s warm vocals as grating mechanical scratches manage to drift in the distance without disrupting the peaceful, almost meditative vibe of the song. “Any Hopeful Thoughts” manages crescendo and catharsis perfectly; a quite, shifty beginning segues effortlessly into a full-blown march, while Chris Hood gets lost in the confusion and ultimately is outshined by a spectacular violin line later on. “End of One Train Working” continues the expansive, meditative atmosphere of “Any Hopeful Thoughts.” Chris Hood ruminates dreamily above more guitar pluckery and some creepy handclaps. “Winter 72” is another six-minute-plus dirge that works discordant, atonal bleeps and scratches into the mixture. “The Negatives” is the most straightforward pop song on the album, yet it still has a surprising complexity; layers upon layers of sound interweave to form an ostensibly simple and totally compelling melody.

But the highlight of the album is its second half. “The Lost You” kicks off perhaps the finest four songs that Hood has written yet. It sounds as if the band recorded a song, then chopped it up and used it to compose the melody of “The Lost You.” The beat is composed of slices of Chris Hood’s vocals spliced with backwards guitar loops and surgically reconstructed drum patterns. The result is absolutely revelatory, an idea that turns traditional songwriting on its head entirely. “Still Rain Fell,” “L. Fading Hills,” and “This is Forever” continue the chilly vivacity of the first half of the album, but with much better execution. “Still Rain Fell” is a surreal trip across the British countryside, replete with crisp guitars, smooth drums, and a particularly inspired vocalist. “L. Fading Hills” further pushes the percussion to center stage, putting the rest of the band in a backseat to the propulsive drums.

“This is Forever” is the perfect microcosm for Outside Closer as a whole; expansive, dreamy, and surreal, the song continues for over seven minutes without repeating itself to excess. Chris Hood again manages to get lost somewhere in the fray, overcome by the frosty splendor of the instrumentation. Indeed, Hood’s particular brand of indie rock is easily recognizable and refreshingly unique, and despite a few faults along the way, Outside Closer is an excellent album, if not totally fulfilling of its promise. If Hood can refine its songwriting just a little further, the band could produce an album with the unmistakable innovation and immortal beauty of Radiohead’s Kid A. Until then, I’m satisfied with playing Outside Closer’s more transcendent moments over and over.