Brighton four-piece House of Hats draw in the folky flavours of the likes of early Fleetwood Mac and Wishbone Ash, melding a chorus of vocal harmonies and picked acoustic guitars in their debut album, This Love. While the songs are well-structured, vary in pace and reveal some nice moments, nothing in the song writing jumps out as particularly original or awe inspiring. That being said, the album will appeal to anyone with a penchant for traditional folk and close harmony.
The sweetness of tracks such as ‘This Love’, ‘Gold’, and ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’, is offset against the darker energy of songs like ‘Close To Me’ and ‘Rivers Will Run’. The latter features powerful strings weaved into the guitar and percussion, maintaining the pace of the instrumentation. The verse of ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ reminds me slightly of Showbiz-era Muse, and the heart-warming lyrics of ‘Gold’ show the band’s affectionate and gentle touch.
‘Right Behind You’, featuring the intense and beautiful lead vocals of Al-Anoud ‘Noddy’ Al-Omran, is one of the highlights of the album. The song introduces a lilting rhythm, awash with splashes of guitar chords and accordion. The harmonies are held back in the verse and released in the chorus, with a mournful repetition of the phrase “as I do” flowing in and back out of a mandolin tremolo passage towards the end, a fragile and heart wrenching moment. ‘No Man’ is another stand-out track, with layers of guitar on a rolling 6-8 rhythm, and an intensity sometimes lacking from the other songs. Opening with a quick-waltz rhythm on the guitar, and Noddy’s punchy vocals, the familiar chorus vocals join in after half a verse, and the second verse features cool pizzicato runs.
The crisp production, particularly on the vocals and guitar which are flawlessly sewn together, is a bit of double-edged sword; the album, while being very polished and easy to listen to, doesn’t reveal any of the rough edges and blemishes that can often give a layered folk record a more authentic air. Nevertheless, their musicianship and their ability to write distinctive vocal melodies make This Love a good platform upon which House of Hats can build their future material.
Words: Ned Mortimer