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Hal - Hal


Review: Jack Foley

IRELAND'S finest new exports, Hal, cite everyone from Van Morrison to Brian Wilson as influences that help them to deliver their classic yet quirky 70s west-coast pop-influenced sound.

The result is a debut album of shimmering brilliance that looks at love in all its many forms - from the joy and intoxication of those initial giddy feelings, through to the heartbreak that can sometimes follow.

Tracks such as Play The Hits (the band's most recent single) effortlessly sum up the joy of first becoming smitten, thereby hitting the listener with some really great melodies and a genuinely upbeat chorus.

Think Beach Boys mixed with the more contemporary likes of The La's There She Goes and you're someway close to imagining the sheer joy to be had in singing along.

Play The Hits probably rates among the finest tracks on the long-player, cleverly mixing Dave Allen’s easygoing vocals with the harmonies of his brother, Paul.

But elsewhere there's still plenty to admire, from the multi-layered opening ballad (and former single), What A Lovely Dance, to the deeply poignant Keep Love As Your Golden Rule (which contains some truly beautiful lyrics and some subtle strings).

The quirky sound of the band is best demonstrated in moments such as the epic My Eyes Are Sore, which soars as high as some of the Polyphonic Spree's best efforts while simultaneously conjuring memories of the free-loving Seventies.

And comparisons with another Irish band of the moment, The Thrills, are sure to be found in tracks such as I Sat Down, which tosses in some excellent banjo.

Indeed, it is a feature of the album that the music is wildly diverse, seldom afraid to introduce new instruments into the mix, while changing the vocal style at several points.

It serves to ensure that the album never outstays its welcome, even if it doesn't always deliver what's expected.

Yet with further highlights including the wonderfully wistful Fools By Your Side and another former single, the country-tinged Worry About The Wind, in which Allen's vocals adopt a falsetto style, the album always delivers something to amaze.

Hal's debut effort is, therefore, a nostalgic throwback to days gone by that can't fail to leave you smiling. It will almost certainly rate as one of the albums of the year.

Track listing:
1. What A Lovely Dance
2. Play the Hits
3. Keep Love as Your Golden Rule
4. Don’t Come Running
5. I Sat Down
6. My Eyes are Sore
7. Fools by Your Side
8. Worry about the Wind
9. Satisfied
10. Slow Down (You’ve Got a Friend)
11. Coming Right Over

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