It took a couple of songs to pinpoint who The Dark Water Hymnal’s lead singer Jeremy Ballard reminds me of. Then the penny dropped. Despite coming from Austin, Texas, Ballard’s vocals are frighteningly similar to Tim Booth, lead singer with iconic early 1990s UK band James. In fact their voices are so similar I had to check back to see whether Booth was perhaps guesting on the album.
Aside from the James similarities there are others comparison to be made with UK acts, more so than with US indie folksters like Iron and Wine who the band were compared with following the release of their debut album As Above As Below. The Waterboys is another that spring to mind, as violins weave around Ballard’s vocals.
Across the nine tracks on Collapse the Structure, which is their second album, there’s a lot to like. There’s a welcome consistency creating a pleasant enough indie folk album that requires no skipping. However, with that consistency there is also a lack of killer moments. The music may be like The Waterboys in places but there’s no ‘The Whole of the Moon’ standout.
Nevertheless while Collapse the Structure, which was mixed and mastered by Erik Wofford, who has worked with other notable Austin bands such as Okkervill River and Explosions in the Sky, may not collapse any structures of music, it is still a welcome and worthwhile record. And it is one we’d certainly recommend to those that have begun discovering other interesting North American acts with strong UK influences such as Rural Alberta Advantage.
Among the best tracks are the gypsy rhythms of ‘The Quiet’ and the twinkly ‘Whole City Glows’. Final track ‘Black Confetti’, which by the way is a great song title, is another of the more interesting tracks, rousing with superb anthemic vocals towards the end.
When listening to Collapse the Structure I’m also reminded of another Austin singer Robert Harrison, the former frontman with Cotton Mather and now Future Clouds and Radar, who sounds uncannily like John Lennon. They clearly like British singers in Austin. If the city ever staged a version of British soundalike TV programme Stars in their Eyes, it’d be one hell of a show.
by Joe Lepper