The Northern Hues were a six piece indie rock outfit from Philadelphia formed in early 2002 by Aron Brand and Jeff Rains, both of whom were guitarists. Shortly afterwards, responding to a Craigslist ad they were joined by Dan Avidan as lead vocalist. In spring 2003 they were subsequently joined by keyboardist Alex Yaker, bassist Justin Earley and drummer Ian Creech. At some point between 2003 and mid 2005 Creech left the band and was replaced by Darren O’Toole. The group, due to creative differences, eventually disbanded. However, today we will be reviewing their self-titled EP which was released in 2004.
‘Arows’ opens with a jaunty little guitar riff that blends well with Dan’s soft vocals and a harder, heavier percussive beat. For the first track this is a strong opening, it has a nice, even tempo, it’s slower than I was expecting especially considering that the instrumental sections are quite prominent. That being said, coming to this EP from other examples of Avidan’s vocals, he is never overpowered by the instrumentals, instead they find a solid balance.
‘Shine’ keeps to a slower melody, to begin with, it’s more ambient, with a fuller mixed instrumental build up that comes together even as the track picks up in tempo. I love Dan’s voice, and it works well within the context of this track. His softer voice has a natural melodic tone to it and it adds a lot to this track. I like that despite obviously being a quite busy track, plenty of energy and plenty of diversity in terms of sound, it manages to find a balance between slow and fast.
‘Broken Dark’ has a building series of notes that have choir vibes, like the backing notes to something angelic, and Avidan’s voice works well with this as well, he is capable of hitting and sustaining higher notes that many vocalists would envy. I really liked the backing to this one, as it flows away from the sustaining note, it has an engaging melody of bass, percussion and guitar as well as other electronic tones that build and flow throughout. I particularly liked the last minute or so, it had some of the best vocal and instrumental elements in what is easily my favourite track on the EP.
‘Get A Ride’ builds slowly, a sonorous and weighty melody that slowly incorporates some light strings that really add to the whole track. Again, I really admire the pacing of the track, all the elements coming together to make something that is distinctly memorable, tracks which have their own identity and yet work well together as part of a broader whole. This is a very close second favourite behind ‘Broken Dark’. It has some solid keyboard sections which shine brighter in this than in other tracks, and add to that another standout vocal number from Dan, all combined with expertly layered bass, guitar and percussion.
‘Out Of The Black Sea’ is the third track in a row which pushes at least five minutes, I would usually urge artists not to do this as it can mean that music outstays its welcome but in this case I have no issue with it, especially as this track shakes things up with an instantly different track. Opening instead with a light, drum fill which is then built on top by synthy chords that layer atop one another. I really liked the energy of this track, as I said above, each track gives us something new while working as part of a broader work by a group, this is probably the most unique, but even it still has the same bones. Also, and without overstating the fact, I really like how well Dan’s voice works with the track, it softly backing up his voice and yet being defined on it’s own.
‘Close Your Eyes (Live At Pianos, NY 04)’ also opens with percussion, but this is a heavy, leading drum fill that is slow to be joined by the other instrumentals, really giving the drummer a chance to shine, and boy does he. Dan’s voice, and I know from seeing NSP live in Edinburgh, works even better live and you hear it here, nothing to filter or mask, just the high energy vocals of someone who loves singing. I really liked the guitar in this, tight, high energy and matching Dan’s high energy performance.
So that’s what I thought of The Northern Hues self-titled debut EP and if you want to check that out for yourself then head on over to Spotify. While you’re at it, why not follow them on Facebook to show your support. They also have a reddit community which you should check out if you are interested in finding out more, or connecting with other fans. Speaking of which, check out this Tumblr, also operated by a fan of the group. Oh and you can check out an incredible fan effort to transcribe the lyrics from all of the tracks on the EP by clicking here.
First Published on: https://offtherecordblog.org/