In the Alleyway

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On the 11-song In the Alleyway, Hercules continues March Records' rich tradition of releasing some of the sweetest pop this side of Willy Wonka. The bright sounds of Hercules are produced by the team of Ben Summer and Peter Baldwin. Culled from recordings on over 100 cassette tapes, the disc includes contributions from Gordon Zacharias of Fan Modine, J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., and Chris Collingwood of Fountains of Wayne. These guest appearances might lead to certain assumptions, but the sound is all Hercules, which is much simpler and less muscular than their name would suggest. The collaboration of the American and British musicians began in Japan, but the sounds on In the Alleyway represent influences from around the globe. "Hurricane" is a standout, with Zacharias' lush vocals leading the way on top of Sumner and Baldwin's soft arrangements. "It's a Big World" is ironic, considering the brilliant smallness and simplicity of the album's overall sound. Subtle and disarming, each song is crafted with minimal instrumentation. Never overdoing it, Hercules' main duo tapped on other guest musicians to round out the sound. Joanna Ikard guests on cello, while violinist Eric Lee, flutist Loren Pickford, and multi-instrumentalists Glen Barbarot and Paul Tassin add a number of warm sounds to the disc throughout. "Me Against the World" is possibly the disc's most joyous song, despite the title. "Temporary Like Hercules" closes the disc with a steady and stunning instrumental. Collingwood appears on backing vocals on "Don't Cry," while Mascis mixed the album, which was produced by Sumner and Baldwin themselves. Soothing yet alarming, simple yet complex, the disc is near-impossible to categorize.

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