Stoner rock. Psychedelia. Dream rock. You get the drift, man. People argue to no end about where this band or that album fits within any number of subsets, but, Hearing Tree is a rare exception. They fit the bill in a more general sense, transcending the various compartmentalized characterizations to hit the general appeal of a sort of all inclusive, Frankenstein version of the genre. On Eyes, the Colorado rockers build layered songs in a few different directions, from shoegaze to metal, while staying firmly rooted in their drone-y, stoner rock sound.
Hearing Tree start with a fairly standard formula: guitar heavy—both ringing, picked out chords and distorted walls of sound, with bass and drums primarily relegated to a support role, and vocals alternating between nonexistent, unintelligible-but-ultimately-emphasizing the melody, and occasionally taking on a more prominent role in a song or chorus.
They take this formula and apply it in a few different directions. The opener, “DPDR” begins with a riff that could be described as a stepbrother—bearing an uncanny resemblance, but still distinct—of “You,” from Radiohead's first album, Pablo Honey. The clear reverence for early Radiohead is present elsewhere and throughout, but luckily always plays out more homage than imitation. By the next track, “Empty,” the sound is leaning towards the likes of Minus the Bear and the next few songs jumps from Explosions in the Sky-style wall of sound to the thick, crunchy and seemingly metal inspired song, “Bones."
“Sun in the Rain” is one of the most polarizing tracks on the album, having clear vocals a few cool different riffs—including a bridge with a descending progression that's among the record's best—but the line, “feels good to feel the sun in the rain” is repeated ad nausea, droning on to the point that it detracts from an otherwise standout song.
While the album finds the band going in different directions, some of the best moments are the songs in between those different directions. “Imagine” blends, shoegaze droniness with sweeping lead guitar riffs in the style of that early Radiohead, as well as that bands then-proclivity for adding a couple of more guitar layers to each verse/chorus/bridge each time it comes around.
Eyes also builds energy as the album progresses. So, while the heaviest song, might be found mid-way through (see “Bones,” above), the last few songs really capitalize on momentum that's been established and bring a simmering level of intensity. The final track, “Star Command,” seems like a victory lap— revisiting a lot of the elements that were present on the album and harnessing built up energy.
The album was recorded and mastered by Kris Smith (who's notably worked with the Dropkick Murphys) in the band's hometown of Fort Collins at Downtown Artery. While there's decent amount of compression (that could just be from streaming...), the lead guitar(s) always stand out from the backing wall of sound. It's also worth nothing that effects aren't overused on the album, unlike many artists of a similar ilk where overuse of flange and reverb can become nauseating.
Hearing Tree have recently added a third member and announced plans to return to the studio imminently. If this album is simply a first step we can look forward these guys taking an already strong sound and running with it!
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