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4.0 out of 5 stars We've been loved!, 7 Mar 2006
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: We Haven't Just Been Told, We Have Been Loved (Audio CD)
In the loosest sense, Half-Handed Cloud is Christian music.
No, not generic pop-rock that tells you to love Jesus or else. Instead, "We Haven't Just Been Told, We've Been Loved" lives up to its title -- it's charming, joyous, energetic music that is equal parts psychedelica and circus folk. And yes, those twee little songs are centered on the Bible.
The songs are also very short -- the longest is less than three minutes long, and the shortest is only twenty-six seconds long. But from the start, it's a charming experience: John Ringhofer sings cheerily over a clashing piano-pop melody and the odd burst of kazoo. "Not because you were exhausted/but because of the perfected/finished work of your creation..."
But if you listen carefully, you'll hear a bit of a spiritual odyssey woven into the album -- Ringhofer describes his own past problems and arrogance, and adds quizzically, "I am humiliated/and I am ashamed/disgrace, dishonor/it makes me wonder why you keep on waiting."
Not all the songs are so personal -- some of them are just cheery, optimistic little pop songs about the Biblical Samuel, absentmindedly sowing seeds, kings and princes, and needing new pairs of glasses. The final song has the weirdest lyrics -- "I was balding like a berry/but my knees were always hairy..." Hello, oddball songwriting! It's not Ringhofer's most charming, nor his most imaginative, but it's weird and cheery enough to be enchanting.
As the labelmate to Sufjan Stevens, Ringhofer has actually done something difficult -- he's created religious pop that isn't going to make the non-religious run for the hills. Instead, it's just warm, cuddly music that happens to have religious lyrics, with no preaching and more reflections on being loved and loving.
Vocally, Ringhofer is a dead ringer for Wayne Coyne -- he's got that off-key thing down. And it works very well with his music, which tends to be either acoustic guitar or some very fast piano; he also adds a carnival sound with xylophones, kazoos, and the odd cash register sound. And, of course, bursts of horns and the odd bit of echo effect.
Half-Handed Cloud is in their second-best shape here, with an unusual concept album wrapped up in weird pop melodies. Why can't there be more music like this album?
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We Haven't Just Been Told, We Have Been Loved
We Haven't Just Been Told, We Have Been Loved by Half-Handed Cloud (Audio CD - 2010)
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