I will forever sing the praises of Wil Farr, and not just because we have the same birthday. Dude’s been making some of my favorite tunes for the past decade or so, and since teaming up with his latest band, Hurrah! A Bolt of Light!, things have been really jiving. Hurrah!’s fan-funded, self-titled second album feels like a natural evolution from the band’s debut.
Hurrah’s 2011 album, Hello!, was a balanced blend of alt-country sincerity and unbridled rock energy. My favorite song from the band’s full-length debut, “One Drink,” took a simple melody and ran like hell with it. It is still one of my go-to rage therapy aids.
On the new release, Hurrah! reins in that fury a bit, resulting in something that sounds a bit more mature and refined. Compared to early demo recordings of several songs on this album, the band clearly made an effort to sand things down on this outing. “Hands in the Bees’ Nest” particularly reached fruition with a deeper elegance than its original manifestation, trading Farr’s bristling growls for anguished cries.
The album opens strong with “I Sold My Soul,” a relatively upbeat tune showered with handclaps and a catchy chorus of “oh whoa oh”s. It’s easily the most fun, accessible song the band’s put out, and even carries what sounds to be a sweet plea of everlasting (even if a bit futile) love. It’s an appropriate reintroduction to the many talents within the group, Jacob Pleakis returning to pound out keys, Kenny Shaw kickin’ it on the drums, a low bassline from Doug Drewes, and driving guitar licks from Dave Freedman accompanying the stylings of bandleader Farr.
“Rip It Out” follows with what most closely resembles my favorite moments from Hurrah!’s raucous debut. The keys especially dazzle here, which I think has always been one of the band’s greatest assets. I may not be ripping my heart out when I hear it, but I’m certainly dancing it out.
Farr becomes especially introspective for “No Rest For The Wicked,” a powerful ballad that allows the band to show it can soften its tone without sacrificing the grit that makes it unique. A heartbeat thumps in the background throughout the song, which becomes even more poignant when heard only beneath Farr’s gentle insistence, “So don’t go.”
The album closes with the devastating yet gorgeous “Empty Bag of Bones.” I’ve gotta hand it to Farr for really committing to his bleak observations of life and self, and I honestly mean that. It’s common to end an album on a high note, with something uplifting so the listener can walk away feeling good. You’ll probably feel good after this one, too, in a bittersweet kind of way.