HALLELUJAH THE HILLS
NO ONE KNOWS
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
On its third album, Boston’s Hallelujah the Hills seems in conflict with its popularizing tendencies. As if to undercut the TV commercial-ready potential of the coed harmonizing chorus hook of “Get Me in a Room,” a broken-down jalopy of a guitar solo tries to pull the song back from crossover territory. “Nightingale Lightning” pulls a similar trick, devolving from a flourishing blast of horns and intricate curlicues of bright guitar into unsettling strings and the static of feedback. “Care to Collapse” is a more road-weary number, perfunctorily alluding to a series of unexplained incidents in various cities. “So keep it all under your hat,” Ryan Walsh sings, “and other appropriate expressions,” as if he can’t finish the cliché. It’s a recurring push and pull, with Walsh sounding deadpan on the worn-down verses, as in “The Game Changes Me,” before the harmonies of the band stir the emotional pot with an injection of beauty. When they hew closer to the forlorn Americana blueprint on songs like “Dead People’s Music,” a slowly unfolding, tragic bar-band lament of knife-in-the-heart trumpet, banjo, and organ, they sound most themselves. “We play dead people’s music,” he sings. In their hands, however, it comes alive. (Out Tuesday)
Hallelujah the Hills perform at the Middle East on May 26.