Hailing from – where else? – Brooklyn, The Hundred in the Hands are – what else? – a boy-girl duo who make sultry, electronic dance-pop. Already making their name on the blogosphere, this eponymous debut album arrives swathed in hype and expectation; though, thanks to fellow Brooklyn-based boy-girl electro-pop duo Sleigh Bells, there’s perhaps less than there may otherwise have been. That said, there is a noticeable difference between the music and approach of the two bands, and if Sleigh Bells are the truculent, hyper, troublesome younger sibling, then The Hundred in the Hands are the calmer, darker, older one.
As such, Eleanore Everdell and Jason Friedman have tempered these 11 songs with an icy contemplation that permeates and informs the mood of the album as a whole. Young Aren’t Young, the opening gambit, begins with a tentative, timid electronic tinkle – an uncertain, unsure clearing of the throat – before the underlying beat kicks in and Everdell’s stoic yet tender, detached yet inviting vocals possess the song and take control of it. From there, the cool, collected confidence of the pair grows, and a strange robotic sensuality infuses Lovesick (Once Again) and Killing It, the two tender songs which follow. It’s a promising start – a triptych of bizarrely emotionless emotion – but the band then struggle to maintain that level throughout.
The tub-thumbing kitsch of single Pigeons lacks the subtlety of the previous tracks and – despite its fantastic accompanying video – really sounds like a New York take on Eurotrash pop. Dead Ending and Last City suffer a similar fate, while the distinctly 80s guitars of Gold Blood make it sound, at times, like a Robert Palmer song (and not Addicted to Love). The sharp and spiky Dressed in Dresden injects some angular indie rock into the equation, which helps break the unyielding electromagnetic pulse.
If this were an EP, it would be captivating – Everdell’s voice is certainly commanding – but, spread out over 11 songs, it loses some of its hold. The ominous shadows that creep through final song Beach help the album reach the plaintive, haunting heights of its beginning, but it’s not quite enough to salvage it completely.
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