Even Hand – Sighted (Album Review)
by Steven Spoerl
Over the past week or so there were a whole host of fascinating music videos that emerged, including clips from the following acts: Tangerine, Spook the Herd, Heavy Drag, Peach Kelli Pop (x2), Globelamp, Elvis Depressedly, Psychic Heat, The Van T’s, John Doe, Mimes of Wine, Merchandise, Kid Moxie, Eagulls, and Ace Frayley’s Child. All of them were granted multiple views and a fair amount of thought but when it came time to decide on a feature, that spot fell to a record from a band that’s been praised on these pages before.
After the many successes Even Hand found with both their self-titled debut and their follow-up outing, Drifted, slowing down would have been a logical move. Instead, the band opted to continue surging forward, honing the minutiae of their strongest aesthetic choices and continuing to grow sharper as a band. “Line Out”, the record’s opening track, immediately sounds more vicious than anything on the band’s first two records, building into a hard-charging noise/punk section that aims to bludgeon and hits with a surprisingly direct force. The track peels back a little eventually, revealing that the band’s penchant for compelling understatement hasn’t just remained in tact but has somehow become even more emboldened.
“Line Out” sets the tone for what’s to follow, including the insistent trio of tracks that come in on its heels. “Mystery Is”, “Telewater”, and “MONEY HOUSE BLESSING” all feel indebted to a strain of ’90s punk that’s gone relatively unexplored as a primary source of influence from bands that have caught the eye of the greater public (Meat Wave being a notable exception). Of the three, “MONEY HOUSE BLESSING” stands out most because the band switches up its approach and places equal emphasis on dissonance and melody instead of primarily playing to their strength in catering to the former.
“Melt Glass” provides a breathtaking transition in one of the record’s bravest moments, which shows the band plumbing a previously untapped depth of the kind of experimentation that should yield impressive dividends as they barrel their way into the future. As an instrumental track, it also affords Even Hand what’s essentially a chance to subtly reset — or at least adjust — the positioning of Sighted, which they take immediately take advantage of by pairing the two shortest tracks together in the sequence that immediately follows “Melt Glass”.
“Holes in the Ceiling” ties the wistful, melancholic atmosphere of “Melt Glass” over for another track while the rant-fueled “Nightsmoke The Fuss” immediately cuts that atmosphere to shreds while (barely) retaining its subdued, bittersweet underpinning. More than any other stretch of Sighted, Even Hand’s able to demonstrate their expanded nuance and seemingly limitless understanding of the genre’s malleable, elastic form, something a lot of other bands become far too self-involved to explore in any sort of meaningful way.
Sighted‘s final third is largely made up of songs that more directly tie to the band’s past work, only they sound ever-so-slightly more focused than the bulk of their existing discography. Each one comes equipped with the kind of metallic sheen that Steve Albini likes to emphasize with his production techniques. “Sleep Complex”, Sighted‘s penultimate — and longest — track flashes a whole arsenal of qualities that made Even Hand such a fascinating band in the first place. The tension, feeling, dynamics, and intelligent structuring all point to a band operating at full capacity.
The elegiac “On A Distant Distant Distant Day” closes the proceedings out in a haunted whisper that doesn’t feel too far removed from Told Slant‘s recent work. As a final act, “On A Distant Distant Distant Day” feels appropriately placed; as more epilogue than finale, the song’s allowed to demonstrate worth via subtext rather than surface action. It’s an intelligent move that caps off a deeply rewarding record that benefits from investment but doesn’t wield it like a requirement. Oddly moving and meticulously crafted, Sighted marks the band’s third consecutive standout and goes quite a distance in proving the band’s not beholden to any sort of limitation. In short: Sighted is music worth celebrating.
Listen to Sighted below and keep an eye on Stupid Bag for the eventual cassette release.