What do you do when someone close moves away? Do you concede that it’s not worth the trouble and throw them away, or, do you rather soldier on, accept your new reality, and come out better on the other side? That question faced Atlanta’s Quiet Hounds last year, when their lead singer (known only as ‘E. Hound’) was forced to relocate across the country.
First, a little background. Quiet Hounds are a Atlanta-based indie-folk sextet. They’ve released three increasingly proficient records since 2011 and occupy a musical space somewhere in between the beautiful, emotionally dense melodies of Head and the Heart and the genre-busting, musical experimentation of Dr. Dog. They operate under a mysterious Slipknotian approach that includes killer dog masks straight out of You’re Next, a “First Initial + Hound” band member naming convention, and only the occasional live show (which are just as much art exhibits/history lessons as concerts). It’s really not a one note gimmick — they insist that the anonymity speaks to both the singular musical focus and democratic nature of the group. Read that sentence again. Does that really sound like a unit who would benefit from a key cog moving 2,000 miles away?
If you just answered no, it’s clear that you’ve never heard the age-old adage “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Despite the adversity, Quiet Hounds have soldiered on. They spent countless hours sharing musical ideas through Skype sessions and any other janky medium they could find, and have come out on the other side with a fantastic new album, Shake Don’t Shatter.
Unlike their previous efforts, this is an extremely emotional record, centered around metaphorical conversations between E. and the rest of the Hounds about his experiences out West. Whether he’s longing for their presence or daydreaming about their future, the band is clearly always on his mind. His words remind me what it’s like to experience a brand new chapter. Looking to the future, while never forgetting the past. There’s no one that can’t relate to that, and that’s what makes his words so poignant. With this emotional content, it only makes sense that they’ve opted to finally discard the dog masks for this record. The layers have officially been peeled back.
In my opinion, it’s these experiences that make their their most successful album to date. They don’t sound like a young band anymore. The tough times have prematurely aged them, particularly E., whose world-wearied vocals add an authenticity that wasn’t quite there in the first few records. The stepped up production doesn’t hurt matters, either.
Musically, the record is immediately accessible (read: catchy as hell). The instrumentation is impeccable, with each band member capable of powering a song forward. Just when you think you’ve figured them out stylistically, the key ingredients change: moving effortlessly from drums & bass (“Hunter Gatherer”) to piano (“Mansions”) to surf-inspired guitar (“A Tidal Wave”).
All hyperbole aside, the chorus of the opening song “Hunter Gatherer” is enough to put these guys on the national radar. It’s one of those rare songs that feels timeless; halfway through the song, you’ve seemingly been a lifelong fan. This type of comfort is a hell of a way to start an album. The hook is in; is there really a choice to keep listening?
The rest of the album breezes by in similar fashion, with particular standouts including the ballad “Magnolia” and upbeat “A Tidal Wave.” Quiet Hounds have certainly left their mark with this one. Don’t sleep on them…or let these sleeping dogs stay asleep…err…wait, what? You know what I mean.
– Evan Yerega
More Info on Quiet Hounds:
Listen to Shake Don’t Shatter on Spotify here:
Download a High Fidelity version of the album here.
Or iTunes here.
For more in depth on the recording of these songs, from cross country, and what led to this heartfelt album, follow as each hound looks at each song at http://shake.quiethounds.com.