Howth - Howth
Record Label: Mecca Lecca Recording Co.
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Folk-tinged indie is seemingly becoming more popular by the day. With bands like Arcade Fire and Mumford & Sons selling albums and bothering the charts as much as any auto-tuned pop singer, it’s never been a better time for fairly sensitive boys with acoustic guitars. The downside to this, of course being, that as with any genre that flirts with the mainstream, the scene is becoming oversaturated by new bands trying to cash in on that success. Of course, some bands manage to have the integrity and the talent of the aforementioned bands. That’s where Howth come in. The New York-based duo of Carl Creighton and Blake Luley, have released their self-titled debut album on Mecca Lecca Recording Co. As with many new indie folk bands, I approached it with caution, cynically expecting another Starbucks soundtrack album, but on listening to it I was very pleasantly surprised.
As a whole, the album is basically eleven tracks of lyrically focused, mostly acoustic, indie. It starts with “Cooperstown”, a slow, sparse song. Both instrumentally and lyrically depressing, topics broached include loss of a job and the death of a father. Eventually, the lyric “I barely feel alive.” is repeated over and over. It’s beautifully sad. It’s on the songs like this that Howth are at their strongest. “The Wind Blows Cold”, “The White Lights Up At Bloomingdale’s Bring Me Down” and the highlight of the album, the acoustic “Timeless Square”, follow the melancholic, sensitive blueprint of the opening track, and are the high peaks of the album.
With peaks though, come lows. “David” is the weakest track on the record, by far. It doesn’t remotely fit in with the atmosphere of the album and sounds like a poor stab at a Neutral Milk Hotel impersonation. Another problem is song length. Certain tracks go on a lot longer than they should. “Needles And Pins”, despite its Smiths-like guitars, is a prime example of this. Although it’s not extremely long, it seems to drag far beyond the four minute mark it just about hits.
Through subtle touches, Howth manage to prevent the album from becoming boring. This is evident in the atmospheric “Idaho #1”, which could fit into any indie playlist and “Alexander Hamilton” with its extremely sweet girl-boy vocals chorus. Incidentally, “Alexander Hamilton” has the best lyrics of the record. The album ends on high note with the lovely “7A” which again has great lyrics, and leaves you eagerly awaiting its follow-up.
Thankfully, the highs by far outweigh the lows. All-in-all, this is a great debut effort. It manages to team instantly likeable vocals with spot-on instrumentation and emotive, poetic lyrics that manage to avoid the trap of becoming twee. They have avoided making a generic album by putting their own twist on the genre. Hopefully release number two will iron over the creases. Howth are definitely ones to watch.