On Hope, The Strumbellas take their rootsy folk-pop songs to new heights, working in and around the theme of overcoming darkness to get to the light. Amidst the handclaps, foot stomping and explosive choruses, The Strumbellas are writing the type of folk-pop songs that can bring you from playing clubs to playing theatres to playing arenas. When “Spirits’ hit the airwaves, a lot of comparisons were made to bands like The Lumineers, or even early Mumford & Sons but in all honesty and with all due respect, the songs on Hope are songs that those bands dream of writing. Once you’ve heard “Spirits”, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that this is probably the band’s big breakout moment, particularly in the US, where the band has very recently completed late night TV appearance on Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert’s Late Show.
To say that the songs on Hope are excellent might actually be an understatement. From the uplifting, repeated line about banjos in the sky at the end of “Shovels & Dirt” to the chorus on “Wild Sun” that’s punctuated by handclaps and group harmonies, the songs are a perfect mix of catchy, poppy, folk-roots, and ultimately positive lyrics. The theme of overcoming your own darkness seems to be the unifying thread on Hope, and in some ways, I think the musical arrangements mirror that by the intro and verses being primarily frontman Simon Ward on his own singing about his faults, with the full band coming in for big, big, big choruses that re-affirm the fact that things do sometimes get better. I realize that my description probably makes the album sound pretty corny, but it’s really the opposite – the band’s sincerity shines through on every single note.
My favourite moments on Hope are the unexpected ones – the chimes on “Spirits”, the keyboard-led track originally written for Chris Hadfield (“Wars”), the horn section on “Hired Band”, the verifiable piano ballad on “I Still Make Her Cry”, and the entire 4:29 of “Wild Sun”. The singalong choruses, heartfelt lyrics, mix of traditional rootsy instruments (the fiddle, for instance) and synthesizers, and the typically emotive vocal delivery were already a winning combination for the band, but these tiny little moments of growth and of expansion are an absolute joy to listen to.
4.75 out of 5 stars
Six Shooter Records
Must Listen Tracks: “Wild Sun”, “We Don’t Know”, the whole freakin’ album.
BUY Hope on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/hope/id1081120595?app=itunes&ign-mpt=uo%3D4