The Hush Sound | Keen Observers of the Observed

Ah yes, to be young, and with a history.

 

Ah, to be young again. The careless, carefree summer after your senior year in high school. Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. You might spend some time at the lake. Spend some time at the family cottage. Avoid working that summer job. You might spend your college savings.

Or, if you’re Greta Salpeter (piano, guitar, and vocals for the Hush Sound), you go on tour with Panic! at the Disco and Dresden Dolls. (What did she do during the last semester of her senior year? An arena tour with Chicago’s favorite flavor, Fall Out Boy.)

And most of Salpeter’s bandmates—guitarist, vocalist, and fellow songwriter Bob Morris, drummer Darren Wilson, and bassist Chris Faller—aren’t old enough to have a beer in the very venues they sell out.

Ah yes, to be young, and with a history.

Morris and Salpeter met in high school, sort of: He was in tenth grade and she in seventh. Morris, who formed his first band when he was 12, recognized the genius in the classically trained piano prodigy Salpeter and formed the Hush in the cold Chicago winter of 2004–05. Immediately compatible, they wrote countless songs together as an acoustic guitar/piano–driven duo—a stripped-down version of what the Hush Sound would become. Many of those early tunes would end up on their debut, So Sudden.

Fearing fallout by an Eminem wannabe Detroit rapper who expressed ownership over the name “Hush,” Morris and Salpeter added “Sound” to their moniker, also adding drummer Wilson and bassist Faller, and soon after recorded the folksy, indie, artsy So Sudden. “We recorded [So Sudden] for like $2,000 and it was a first impression of everything we liked.” Morris admits. “It’s an awesome representation of where we were.”

At times, So Sudden shows a sophomoric Hush Sound, an album that lacks the glue that polished pieces are known for. Yet, isn’t that what defines an indie release?

The disc is sometimes self-conscious of its own emotions, as calculable as that kid who rips his own jeans rather than letting them fray with their own wear and tear. At other times, it’s eloquent, intelligent, and satirical beyond its own comprehension. But it’s never predictable.

“With So Sudden, we were all over the place and people complained, so we were like…” Morris trails off, self editing with critical caution. Echoing Death Cab for Cutie, Hot Hot Heat, and Ben Kweller, So Sudden is an approachable collective: articulate, decisive, definitive, at times witty. “Some say the songs are good and catchy,” Morris concedes. “But catchy and good don’t always mean the same thing.”

While their debut offered expressions that volleyed between introspective and extroverted lyrics (which might surprise the listener when you consider their age), 2006’s Like Vines finds the Hush Sound continuing to see the world as a bigger place outside of their immediate glance, far and away from the prefrontal lobe reactions that preoccupy twentysomethings in a postmodern world. All the world’s indeed a stage and they revel in the comfort and employment as keen observers of life’s little ironies.

“Structurally the disc is more intelligent, and in some respects this is our first disc,” Morris acknowledges. “It’s a great counterpoint to So Sudden. We’re still all over the place but in different ways. We never want to write the same song twice.”

The band was inspired to artistic peaks by the production team of producer Sean O’Keefe and co-producer Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy—whose bandmate Pete Wentz signed the Hush Sound to his Fueled by Ramen, Decaydance label based on the net buzz of So Sudden—and Like Vines, similar to its predecessor, had a learning curve. Yet Morris & Co. approached this learning curve with vigor and zeal, producing satisfying results. “With this one we spent a little more time in the studio. [The production team] was teaching us things about our playing that we [hadn’t been introduced to].”

Lead single “We Intertwined,” Morris declares, is “probably the poppiest. But it’s a good way to introduce ourselves and a good way to introduce the album.” The follow-up “Wine Red” possesses the melodic sensibilities and harmonic capabilities of Smashing Pumpkins minus the self-depreciating sonic drowsiness. Like Vines is expressive but not swarthy, and plays out like an impressionist’s dream with tactile and olfactory nuggets painting imagery-laden landscapes. It’s a hyperactive auditory companion to the works of Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Mondrian.

While the entire band is accomplished enough to take on singing and songwriting duties, Hush Sound is clearly a marriage between Morris and Salpeter, who seemed to split custody on So Sudden to such an extent that it rivals Kramer v. Kramer for the most dramatic of all divorce proceedings. Kidding aside, we want this marriage (between all members) to last, and Like Vines shows a settlement and an anniversary of sorts, a Hush Sound evolving and maturing further into its compatibility in its wise-beyond-its-years sound.

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