One of the greatest bands of all time came and went in the course of a few years, and it’s more than likely that you completely missed it. New York indie-rock quartet Paper and Sand produced the kind of music that you’d shell out a kidney for if it came to that.
The band self-released two full-length albums: Wolf at My Door (2007) and Thick as Thieves (2009). Not long after they split up in 2009, guitarist/vocalist Wil Farr announced a new group called Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! and the world made sense once again.
Farr’s new ensemble indulges Paper and Sand fans with the expert level of songwriting we’ve come to expect, but subs in some alt-country charm for the barbed hooks of his former gig. What results is that familiar raw energy that erupts in your heart and sears through your veins with a burn that’ll last for days … stoked with the added benefit of keys and a little bit of banjo. If anyone has ever told you that the banjo can’t rock, Hurrah! proves them utterly wrong.
Farr's pulpy vocals are met with those of Bridget Buscemi on Hello!, Hurrah!’s full-length debut album, strutting upon the stunning drum work of Kenny Shaw. Doug Drewes draws a steady bass line across the track list, while keyboardist Jacob Pleakis and guitarist Adam Gould round out the radiant roster.
Some songs reappear from the band’s 2010 self-titled EP. “Devil on my Shoulder” gets a starring role, as Farr’s vocals rip through the ruckus like a tornado crashing a barn dance. He sings with an intensity that’s palpable, putting a vise grip on your soul until it bursts at the apex — a veritable coup of sonic elements coming together to blow you away. And that’s not even the best part of the album (I’ll save that for last).
Hello! opens solid with “See You at the Bottom” — an easy introduction to what’s in store — but pockets its sweetest moves until after the warm-up. Farr’s Alabama roots surface on “Heart is Like a River,” putting country rock guitar in the forefront. “I Don’t Know Why” teases with tempo changes, playing out drummy verses against sinuous choruses, followed by “Everything You’ve Left Behind,” a sunny anthem custom-made to rouse a crowd.
Of all the shining moments that grace the 12-song album, the penultimate number flares like a flamethrower in the night. “One Drink” is a balls-out bar brawler that’ll send you straight to the moon. Be advised to listen to this song in a big open space, or you may end up tearing down walls in an adrenaline-fueled frenzy. Even the piano shreds on this monster as Farr hollers out “One drink is never enough, when you’re down on your luck, when you’re stuck in a rut.” Don’t be surprised if you need a neck brace after this one.