The Underground: Wooden Heart – Listener

Welcome to The Underground (or Notes from the Underground if you’re a Dostoyevsky nerd), a weekly segment in which I examine the very best in unsigned, undiscovered and underground music. It’s my goal to highlight and hopefully promote talented artists who have yet to receive the attention they deserve. If you know of (or are!) a band/artist you think should be featured on The Underground, please give them a shout out in the comments below, or alternatively you can tweet me their info @AnOrangeFellow.

Listeners describe themselves as a “talk music” band due to the lack of what most would describe as any form of traditional “singing” on the album. Though honestly, I think that label sells them short. Most people, when hearing the term would think of beatniks reading out poetry in a coffee shop, when the actual sound is far more emotional, and far more genuine.

The music itself is an odd fusion – songs switch comfortably between rock, folk and sometimes even electronic. The structure of the songs, however, is very traditional. In fact, as odd as I found the singing, if I hadn’t of read up on the band I never would have described them as “talk rock”. Dan Smith addresses his listeners somewhere between a pastor to a congregation and a drunk storyteller in a bar. At once his vocals and lyrics command your attention, addressing grand themes such as motivation, perspective and death while also feeling very personal, and obviously come from Dan himself. The result is that Wooden Heart’s real power, while perhaps initially strange, definitely comes from its narrative.

That’s certainly not to undersell Christin Nelson’s instrumental work. With Dan’s vocal style, it would have been so easy to totally drop the ball in post, either by misunderstanding his rhythm or by putting too much emphasis on the music at the wrong moments. Nelson does a great job, however, building when appropriate and dropping when necessary. Ultimately, Nelson also understands that Wooden Heart is a delicately woven yarn (even at its heavier moments), and leads you perfectly along with the journey Dan has envisioned. Honestly, Wooden Heart is an album that’s hard not to listen to all the way through if you start, and while I can’t guarantee it’ll be everyone’s cup of tea, I can pretty much promise you’ll be eagerly paying attention from start to finish.

Listen to and purchase Wooden Heart here.

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