Ah, Hustle and Drone. You can do no wrong. I’ve praised this local trio before, especially after seeing their live show twice, one of which I reviewed here, during the PDX Pop Now! Festival. Their live shows are packed with stunning visuals, heavy bass, booming synth, and a feeling of just true magic. You can read more about that end of the spectrum here, however a whole new level of amazing has come forth. The debut album.
Hustle and Drone, lead by former Portugal. The Man member Ryan Neighbours, dropped HOLYLAND, their Freshman album, last Tuesday. After a week of basking in its glory in passing, I decided to take a seat with it, and REALLY get to know it.
The album opens up with the title track, “Holyland”. The song begins, like many Hustle tracks, with a very complex, yet seemingly simple in existence, drum intro. Soon, the equation builds upon itself, adding in the signature droney electronic sound that defines this band. Soon, the etheral vocals of Neighbours enters the scene, and we are transported, organ and all, to this holy land of sound. The overall rhythm to this track gives me the urge to gollum. If you don’t know what that is, give “Lorde golluming” a Google and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s like, headbanging, but with your whole body. And if you listen to HOLYLAND with that in mind, you’ll know that holds true.
The second track of the album is one of the strongest tracks in my opinion, “Evaporated”. This track keeps the same basic formula, with the interesting percussion served upon airy vocals and heavy synths, however it adds the ear-catching variation of some horn and piano. This track is the epitome of an indie-pop dance song, but has the signature of something more complex. It’s a track to groove to no doubt, but it’s more than just a dance song.
The third track, keeping a streak of exceptionally strong songs, “Kiddo” opens with a classic hip-hop beat. Piano is soon added in, giving the song a strong R&B sound. This song really sounds like something to play at a party. Sure, it’s iced with the signature synth drones, but the upbeat R&B feel lends itself to a wider range.
HOLYLAND keeps the hip-hop beats in the line-up for the fourth track, “Bhikshu”. Though the beats here are simpler, the input of it all gives us an output of a slower track. It’s a chill out for sure, yet still has an upbeat tone that keeps you excited.
“Night Light” brings back the indie dance vibe from “Evaporated”, but gives things a little different entrance, opening this time with a very echoey and open synth intro. The overall feel of this song lends itself to be the perfect track to blast in your car on a long and scenic roadtrip.
“Holdin’ On To It” gives us a perfect example of how well Hustle and Drone can build up a song. The track starts out with some heavy electronic beats to begin with, accented with some low toned synths and near falsetto vocals, but the sound of it all progressed, grows and grows, as we keep going through. The beats and designs become more and more complex, and it keeps us on the edge of our seat. This track really showcases how good the sound production of HOLYLAND really is.
Once the build up of “Holdin’ On To It” reaches it’s climactic end, we are launched straight into “The Glow”. Though this track didn’t necessarily stand out to me from the others, the transitions between sounds and parts of the song ran very smoothly to give for an interesting listen.
The eighth track of HOLYLAND has to be my favorite. “I Just Need Some Money”, for me, was the most memorable track from their live show. Both times after seeing them, and of course after listening to the album, the chorus from this song ran through my brain like a/n [insert something that runs through your brain here]. The track opens on a light note, bringing forth images of old-timey homemade videos, swinging on the tire swing in summer, and just a feel of being transported back to the golden ages. This bright twinkle is then ripped with a blast of beats, and the sound of an ethereal choir from heaven. In comes the synth drone, and we are subjected to the catchiest chorus, a simple chant.
“I just need some money, or a dollar.”
This track once again makes me want to gollum out, but the main note I take from this song is it’s unignorable similarity to a track alt-J would give us. With the guitar shreds and complex drum beats interjected into the bridge, it’s sure to be a favorite to fans of the alt-J sound.
“The Husband”, though not a highlight, has a very cool variation that sparked my interest: the introduction of a female voice. This integrated into the tracks large and low synths kept me interested enough to continue into track ten, one of the strongest of the album.
“Skinbread” opens, unlike others on the album, with guitar. It’s a breath of fresh air sound-wise, and where it takes us is a strange but wonderful place. This track is definitely the most experimental of all the songs on HOLYLAND. Its plane of sound is littered with strange phenomenon. Strange laughing voices, and creepy la-la melodies. It has the movement of a bewitched puppet dance, but soon grows into something much grander. The scale of the track as a whole makes for a very strong song, one that is very weird, but very, very lovable.
“Backwards” has a very distinct sound to me. It may have just been my own mind, thinking cinematicly, however with the epic synth sound and spacey vocals, this track conjured images of an alien invasion. Just listen to this track and try to picture really dramatic alien invasion footage. If this doesn’t peak your interest, you should definitely know that “Backwards” is a slower track, but it holds a power that makes it very cinematic in a sense. If not for alien invasions, for slow dancing.
The final track on HOLYLAND, “Calling”, opens with a very accessible beat intro. This track opens itself up to a wide audience, and this to me marks is as a great choice for a closing to this album. It ends this spiritual electronic journey that is HOLYLAND on a really inviting note. It is beckoning you to enter, calling to you. Hustle and Drone have really shown their potential with this debut. They are truly everything an electronic band should be.
Final Verdict: 8.9/10