Published Apr 20, 2016Canada's folk-pop anthem production team is at it again. The Strumbellas' third full-length album, Hope, is a testament to frontman Simon Ward's ability to craft earworm after catchy earworm. The debut single, "Spirits," may have taken the airwaves by storm (including a feature performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live), but it's actually just one of many songs on the record that sound like they ought to be some sort of joyful modern-day battle hymn.
Some of this magic can be chalked up to a formula the Strumbellas have down pat: copious hand claps, unison chorus vocals and the kind of song dynamics that have you anticipating the next big crescendo. If you listen to these songs back to back, you do end up noticing a lot of similarity, but individually, they're all good songs, and variations on a theme is a perfectly respectable way to make an album.
Lyrically, the record runs the gamut of well-worn pop tropes ("I'm waitin' for the night to save us," "I'm young and wild," "'Cause if we all die young, then we don't get hurt," etc.); no deep poetry here, but that's part of its charm. And while the banjo makes a lyrical appearance in "Shovels and Dirt" ("I put a banjo up into the sky / It keeps us movin'"), there's no banjo on the recording. Instead, acoustic rhythm guitar is about all that keeps this music anchored in folk. "Hired Band" features some great horn playing by Richard Underhill and William Sperandei, and Jason Sniderman plays simple but great piano on "I Still Make Her Cry."
This record is less about individual musical performances and more about big, uncluttered sound. Like that first drink you have on a sunny patio when it's barely warm enough to sit outside, these triumphant choruses and big sing-alongs are refreshingly happy after a long, dismal, boot-shuffling winter. (Six Shooter)