Ho-Hum Near And Dear

Little Rock, Arkansas might always be thought of as the home of Bill Clinton, but after listening to Near And Dear, a good argument could be made for offering Ho-Hum the key to the city. Ho-Hum have taken a roller-coaster ride through the music industry, starting when they released their debut album in the mid-’90s on Universal. When it was time for the band to release a follow-up, they refused to let outside producers get their hands on it and that led to the progression from major to indie to their current home, Playadel Music, their own label. This is actually their sixth album (and their fifth in the past five years), and the polish and maturity that comes from being at that point in your musical career is really obvious on Near And Dear. There’s a real warmth and happiness to their songs, no matter the subject matter, making it a very easy album to listen to. Most songs sound like a cross between an Americanised XTC and a less experimental Flaming Lips, with the focus being on strong, driving melodies that are designed to get under your skin. Even after just one listen the band’s threat to release an album a year for the next 25 years doesn’t seem very frightening prospect at all. (Playadel)