The Oh Hellos – Through the Deep, Dark Valley
Record Label: Unsigned
Release Date: October 30th, 2012
Concept albums are a hard thing to master. They aren’t made as often as they used to be about 35 – 40 years ago. Bands rarely make concept albums, but every so often, one of them does show up. For example, Muse’s new album is supposedly a concept album, but the problem with it is that the “concept” is lost within the album, because none of the songs really relate to one another. Texan duo The Oh Hellos claim that their debut full-length album Through the Deep, Dark Valley is a concept album that’s best listened to all the way through. At first glance, I was quite skeptical of it, because most concept albums don’t necessarily fail, but as I mentioned with Muse’s new album (regardless of your opinion on them), the concept really falls to the wayside. Does the same happen here? No, not at all, actually. In fact, this is a very successful concept album. Even if it weren’t a concept album, this album would still hold up quite nicely. The lyrics relate enough to definitely be a concept album, but they also work on their own as well. That’s the perfect balance, and it really works here.
Another thing that makes this band really interesting is that it’s comprised of siblings Maggie and Tyler Heath. Both of them perform vocal duties, and share lead vocals, as well as other instruments. Their vocals really compliment one another, and I’ll get to this more soon, but Maggie’s vocals are very angelic and fantastic in every way. Tyler’s vocals are deeper, obviously, and provide a nice contrast to one another. In all honesty, if I had to compare this band to any other, the best thing I could say that would be the closest would the Lumineers mixed with Mumford and Sons. The Americana of the Lumineers shows up in many places on this album, but the folksy-ness of Mumford and Sons also shows up. They don’t sound like these bands exactly, and they do have a sound all their own, but hints of these bands certainly show up, and if you like either of those bands, you’ll certainly enjoy the Oh Hellos.
The record starts out with “The Valley,” which is sort of the title track, because the album name is Through the Deep, Dark Valley. This is one of the best songs on the record, too, It immediately opens with a very folksy acoustic guitar riff and an insanely awesome harmony of the chorus. This song immediately shows what the theme of the album is. It’s less than three minutes long, but it really shows what the band is made out of already, and the listener isn’t even to the second song yet. The middle of the song has a very nice acoustic guitar riff, but the harmony comes back a few seconds later, and it’s absolutely beautiful. There are lots of harmonies on this record, and if you like vocal harmonies, you will love this CD/band a lot. That’s another reason they remind of me the Lumineers, too – they utilized this a lot on their self-titled debut record that was released earlier this year. Ironically, the second song “Like the Dawn” is the longest song on the record, but it shows another side to the band. It starts off with a very slow acoustic riff (as most of the album has an acoustic guitar or mandolin as the backbone) and Maggie Heath’s vocals are finally introduced in more detail. The slow guitar riff does make room for her vocals, so they don’t get muddled in with the rest of the song. Her vocal performance is quite fantastic. In a way, she reminds me of a female Marcus Mumford. The lyrics on this CD definitely remind me of Mumford and Sons album, but that Americana is thrown into it as well, so it’s not quite Mumford and Sons. Regardless, she’s a great vocalist, and her vocals do fit with the accompanying music.
Third track “Eat You Alive” is the shortest track on the album, at a few seconds over a minute and a half, but this track is important because this track introduces Tyler Heath’s vocals, and he has some great vocals, too. His vocals definitely have that folksy vibe that works on here. The accompanying music has handclaps, an acoustic guitar, and everything else that makes a very nice folk/indie song. There’s even a harmony in this song, as in most of the songs on the album. As the record goes on, the record does anything but slow down. Next track “Second Child, Restless Child” starts off with a riff that would certainly appear on a Mumford and Sons album. This song really shows the Mumford and Sons influence, but they’re not wearing it on their sleeves, either. This is one of the best tracks on the album, too, if not my favorite. It really just sums up what the band is about. As the album does progress, there are plenty of highlights, and this is one album where I genuinely enjoy every song. I won’t go through every single song, but take their word for it – this is an album meant to listen to all the way through. It’s insanely hard to not talk about any songs, because every song is great. Fifth track “Wishing Well” captures that Americana vibe I was talking about earlier, and sixth track “In Memoriam,” is a bit more of a somber affair but still really hits home. There’s also some very interesting whistling in the latter half of the song. It’s really cool, and it’s something I’ve never heard before.
At this point, the listener is only about halfway through of the album, and it’s rather surprising, because it doesn’t feel like it’s been half of the album. The album doesn’t slow down, even if the songs are very slow themselves. They’re just as great as the songs with a higher tempo. Eighth track “I Was Wrong” is another one of my favorite tracks on the CD; this song, and the next song “I Have Made a Mistake” make me think about the overall concept of the record. The first half of the record is all about the singers/writers going through the “valley,” wherever or whatever it may be or symbolize, and these two songs are saying that they made a mistake and want to come home again, almost like expressing their wrongdoing. Mainly, the last track “The Valley (Reprise)” is another interesting track, because it’s simply the first track, but redone a bit. It’s almost like if you weren’t paying attention to the record, you can get the gist of what the record is about again. It’s absolutely perfect, and a great ending to the record.