Radiating from Washington’s rocky western coast lines and desolate eastern deserts, Hand in the Attic is eminently composed from those geographic roots. Lonesome figures amble and row the landscapes and seascapes in waltz tempo. Acoustic guitars accented by stabs of distortion are like waves crashing onto rocky shores. Ambiguously bittersweet lyrics and harmonies bound like tumbleweeds through Eastern Washington’s desert.
The self-titled debut of Seattle-based independent folk rock band Hand in the Attic reveals the world narrated from the point of view of frontman Alex Fox, who culled from an army of carefully-crafted songs for a stunning full-band album. Aided by multi-instrumentalist Brent Stecker, engineer and mad-sound scientist Greg Shapovalov, and numerous talented friends, what resulted was an eight-track, 30-minute journey worthy of occupying space in record collections next to Neutral Milk Hotel, M. Ward, and Elliott Smith.
Opening track “Dead Red Moon” immediately charges the ear with a boldly fingerpicked progression, only to step out of the spotlight to make way for the vivid imagery of Fox’s lyrics and vocals. It’s all cleansed in Stecker’s and Shapovolov’s uneasy bath of feedback, beeps, and dirty air, pushing and pulling without allowing a distinct advantage to any one dynamic.
Immediately following is a trio of songs that define Hand in the Attic. “Walking in Circles” waltzes through beautifully deliberate highs and lows like an expert sea captain navigating dangerous passages on a blustery Pacific Northwest night. “Ghost in a Half-Filled Boat in the Bay,” the album’s shortest song at 2:22, wastes no time turning a straight-forward chord progression into a teeth-baring blast of nautically supernatural proportions. And then there’s “Tree Song,” an acoustic tapestry of metaphorical lyrics every person can relate to.
“Whiskey Water,” the album’s lone track written and sung by Stecker, serves as a sort of mid-album interlude. The band’s usual acoustic foundation takes a backseat for a mean electric guitar tone, all while Stecker takes the direct approach vocally like an oppressive Dust Bowl-era authority figure. The record then eases back into the melody-driven “The World of Mathematicians,” a song for the black sheep that would fit well on a solo Neil Young album if not for the leftest of left turns at the bridge.
The big finish is certainly that. “Everything Will Breathe Pt. 1,” a pretty lament that Seattle Weekly called “the best Elliott Smith song he never wrote,” leaps feet-first into the final track, the suffocatingly brilliant “Everything Will Breathe Pt. 2.” The two-part saga builds until it can build no more, like vintage Weezer mixed with the distinctly sweet and innocent desire to leave everything behind and start anew. The word ‘epic’ has been used to describe the performance of “Everything Will Breathe,” and after hearing it all as one, listeners will understand why.
In its review of Hand in the Attic, Seattle Weekly declared, “The band’s strength lies in its ability to change shape from song to song without abandoning its sound.” The album exercises that fierce loyalty, but also evidences a deeply emotional, melodic, and rock-driven tour of the geography that has shaped the band from its start.
HitA is made up of: Alex Fox, Jenaleigh Flones, Charlee Pilgrim, Owen Fox, Chris Barber, and SharonLi.
Special mention to: Brent Stecker, James Andrews, and Zach Eddy with whom, on occasion, we love to share our stage.