State has been keeping an eye on Hired Hands for a while now, intrigued by their multi-instrumental approach to indie music and impeccable Irish DIY connections (Popical Island, Any Other City). Thus, the thought of their debut album finally appearing over the horizon is one that is pleasing to say the least. Unfortunately, the reality is a little less inspiring as My Heart Hung finds the seven piece falling just a little short of expectations. For all their good intentions, the album is simply not the listening experience it might have been.
On the positive side, the problem lies – not with the band or material – but with the delivery. While their decision to sidestep the standard rock band set up is to be applauded, the manner in which their combination of instruments is presented is far too on the weak side. OK, sweet and light is the band’s thing, but My Heart Hung is so lacking in punch that it too often fades into the background, not helped by the not entirely on the mark vocals.
What’s so frustrating about all this is that there is obviously a promising band beneath the uninspiring facade. The record is full of neat little touches – a vocal harmony here, an African guitar riff there – and the songs have their moments too. You just wish that they had more courage of their convictions and weren’t so rooted in the indie, DIY sound. If that comes due to reasons of budget, then Hired Hands will hopefully find it easier second time around, but if the approach is a matter of deliberate choice then they are doing themselves a serious injustice.