I wanted to start this review with the following:
Our Childhood Heroes, the sophomore outing by Brooklyn collective Hawk and Dove, can best be summarized by its closing track. At 10 minutes long, “For Jack” is plaintive and, at times, a bit overdrawn but you cannot helped being sucked into its vortex by the conceit of it all.
I’m not sure, though, if I still stand by that sentiment.
The new LP, out Friday on vinyl, CD and digital/streaming formats, has one thing going for it, without question: the brilliant opener, “Taxidermy Eden.” I could write volumes about that song alone. Mysterious and almost subtly elegant, the song is just plain masterfully executed, swelling from just a metered, palm-muted guitar and frontman Elijah Miller’s breathy vocals to bridges filled with male- and female-harmony, trilling organ, spare bass and percussion, and, just when you’d least expect it, a dirty little guitar solo courtesy of six-stringer John Kleber. The thing is goddamn, drop-dead good.
The verdict is out on the rest of the record. It’s good, for sure, eliciting the kind of moody, textured, slow-drip indie-rock that’s the specialty of types like The National and Sufjan Stevens. But, unlike, say, The National, Hawk and Dove doesn’t easily give its glassy songs over to a hooky refrain or a grandiose shift in phrasing; instead, their movements and pieces, true to description, percolate. The longer you give them, the more you’re taken in by their sweet poisons. At times, Our Childhood Heroes teeters on greatness.
“A Medication List,” which features a National-appropriate backing beat and some swarmy, even loopy backing ambiance, toys with some of the same concepts as “Taxidermy Eden” – the sense of slow expansion, for one. But it does this while also some resolutely more “accessible,” whether it’s Kleber’s chirpy guitar figures or what sounds like the cut-and-pasted harmony loops of bassist/vocalist Joan Chew. The band plays the blues broken-hearted on “Smoke and Lungs,” a single of sorts with bar-room piano accenting the Miller/Chew male/female delivery. And the opening of “India Oil” (or the song that follows it, “A Memory Made”) will elicit chills, where the chorale vocals of the band, carefully overlapped and edited, usurp tones of religiosity. The rest of the song doesn’t live up to the ambitions of the opening but it doesn’t need to do so. The band is adept at tipping its hand just enough to let you know they hold the cards, but not always to play them.
Which leaves us with “For Jack,” the aforementioned closer.
The song is not really a “song,” so much as passages of free-style guitar noodling, with the occasional backing of guitar feedback or found sounds. And, yes, it’s long. But the guitar line, which sounds wonderfully off-hand, is clearly composed and occasionally show-stopping. Maybe that’s a better opener for this review – Our Childhood Heroes: wonderfully off-hand, clearly composed, occasionally show-stopping. Now then, let me get back to my edits.