Release Date: Apr 22, 2016
Record label: Glassnote Entertainment Group
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Review Summary: Quite possibly the most epic, towering indie-pop record of all timeEpic and bombastic: those are not qualities that folk music is supposed to entail. However, the brand of ridiculously accessible, new-wave indie folk that has taken over the radio waves during the past several years has begun to reshape the idea of what the genre can be. We have groups like the Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, and Mumford and Sons taking it to newfound levels of accessibility, to the joy of some and the dismay of others.
Featuring more of the sextet's festival- and fair-friendly, folk-infused pop, the Strumbellas third long-player, Hope, loads the track list with memorable anthems and stomping rhythms. The singalong opener "Spirits," the band's first Billboard number one after it topped the Alternative Songs chart, turns out to be typical of the majority of Hope's songs. A couple of ballads offer audiences a break from rhythmic clapping to sway with phones in hand, though the piano ballad "I Still Make Her Cry" stands as the lone truly intimate moment of the record which, despite its enthusiastic choruses, harbors reflective, self-doubting lyrics.
Canada's folk-pop anthem production team is at it again. The Strumbellas' third full-length album, Hope, is a testament to frontman Simon Ward's ability to craft earworm after catchy earworm. The debut single, "Spirits," may have taken the airwaves by storm (including a feature performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live), but it's actually just one of many songs on the record that sound like they ought to be some sort of joyful modern-day battle hymn.Some of this magic can be chalked up to a formula the Strumbellas have down pat: copious hand claps, unison chorus vocals and the kind of song dynamics that have you anticipating the next big crescendo.
The Strumbellas have perfected a story arc that’s summed up in the title of their new album, “Hope.” Each song begins with a confession of flaws and fears: “I know it gets harder every single day/I know my darkness might never go away,” Simon Ward sings at the start of “We Don’t Know.” Then the band cues up a folksy, foot-stamping tune that builds momentum all the way up to a huge, happy singalong chorus — which might turn out to be the same confession recast as an affirmation. Mr. Ward’s voice often starts out nearly alone, scratchy and shaky; by the end of the song, he’s leading a multitude.
For those who hadn't yet heard of the Strumbellas, the band's first certifiable hit, Spirits, has likely been their introduction. Its big - nay, huge - builds, drums augmented by handclaps, rhythmic electric guitar, gang vocals and lyrics that leave you uplifted even though they tackle demons serve as a template for Hope, the band's third album. Produced by Dave Schiffman (Johnny Cash, Haim, Weezer), Hope is a clear bid for far broader commercial appeal from the Toronto-via-Lindsay, Ontario, Juno Award-winning six-piece, whose songs have always been hyper-accessible but until now lacked the oomph that big production (literally, bell sounds, if not whistles) has now brought to their folk-pop anthems.