This is a review of "We Live In Boxes" recorded by Hail Animator. The review was written by Jessica Thornsby in 2010.
The two highlights from Hail Animator's debut EP, are both lifted from their 2009 'Days For These Nights' demo, reinforcing how eerily spot-on Hail Animator got it the first time around.
'What You Did' and 'Working' are both subtle re-imaginings of your atypical indie-rock song. 'Working' is vaguely reminiscent of Keane (before Keane got boring) but the tinkling pianos and earnest vocals are backed up by a stompy drumbeat that gives this song the sort of sassy edge Keane can only dream of. 'What You Did' is even better, as Hail Animator go all jazz-tastic on us, with slick piano refrains and slide-guitar that come together in a stylish shimmy that's pure, jazz-meets-indie cool. The chorus manages to be more casual, whilst still retaining that theatrical flourish, thanks to a full supporting cast of backing "oooooooh"s and "aaaaaaaaah"s. Both of these songs deserve to reach a much wider audience.
'Easier Said Than Done' and 'How Are You?' both attempt to carve out their own niche in the over-crowded and fatigued indie-rock scene. 'Easier Said Than Done' goes for understated cool, laying down a piston-like drumbeat, and draping it with riffs that slouch and lounge around in a show of pure, laidback cool. The choruses are a different matter entirely, being pretty standard indie-rock fodder. However, frontman Richard makes this chorus shine, proving that you don't require a roof-raising voice to make an impression. The lifts and drops in his voice, squeeze every last drop of hooky potentional out of that chorus, ensuring you won't be forgetting it in a hurry. Funky indie, with an inspired vocal performance.
The dreamy-eyed waft of 'How Are You?' couldn't be more different from 'Easier Said Than Done.' Building from a goosebump-inducing intro of lilting vocals and faint piano, Hail Animator then make a smoothly successful transition into the main body of the song, by keeping that distinctive piano refrain sparkling away in the background. A song of professionally-handled movement, underpinned by an instantly memorable piano refrain.
'Simple Yet Wise (There Must Be One)' and 'The List' don't quite manage to score bull's eyes. Up until the midway point, 'Simple Yet Wise (There Must Be One)' is a theoretically solid song that's missing that frustratingly elusive extra 'something.' However, sit through the thoroughly 'okay' first half, and Hail Animator get a second wind and man-handle 'Simple Yet Wise.....' into more urgent, anthemic territory. The guitars and drums gain a feisty spring in their step, and 'Simple Yet Wise.....' suddenly begins to feel a whole lot more earnest, anthemic, and big. A song that gets there, in the end.
'The List' takes Hail Animator's obvious fondness for a quirky beat a little too far, by devising an unusual chord structure and then playing it over and over, and over again. But, jar your way through the awkward opening half and 'The List' does flow easier, as an undercurrent of glimmery chords turn 'The List' into a smooth indie-rock song with a spiky edge, rather than a few irritating chords, stuck on a loop. The weakest song, on an otherwise strong EP.
'Working' and 'What You Did' are songs to get you excited about Hail Animator as a band who aren't content with the same old indie-rock fodder. The other songs are consistently strong, if lacking in that final spark that 'Working' and 'What You Did' have in abundance. A band worth keeping an eye on, and two songs that are definitely worth a listen.