The Hundred in the Hands

The Hundred in the Hands

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Based on the Hundred in the Hands' debut EP for Warp, This Desert, the band could have gone in two different directions for its first full-length. The duo could have gone deeper into the experimental leanings shown on some songs, or the sleek disco-pop displayed on others. For their self-titled debut, they chose the latter -- with mixed results. Jason Friedman and Eleanore Everdell worked with pop mega-producer Richard X, among others, which explains the album’s sleeker, slicker feel, while louder guitars, the occasional live drums, and more aggressive synths add a sharper, and more mainstream, edge. This serves the Hundred in the Hands’ singles well, adding muscle to the Bloc Party-like riff of “Dressed in Dresden” and extra bite to “Young Aren’t Young”'s dreamy disco-pop. However, this approach robs the band of the mystique and quirks it showed earlier, and magnifies some of the problems that were lurking on This Desert. Everdell’s voice is still pristinely beautiful -- especially on “Lovesick (Once Again)”'s massed harmonies and “This Day Is Made”'s ghostly choruses -- but it doesn’t always suit this album’s harsher sound. When she tries to match the energy and attitude of her surroundings, as on “Gold Blood,” it sounds like a pale, awkward imitation of Karen O or Siouxsie Sioux; when she remains aloof, there’s a disconnect that isn’t quite pronounced enough to be an intriguing contrast. The Hundred in the Hands still sound most convincing on songs about emptiness: “Pigeons” and “Dead Endings” let Everdell be an ice princess crooning about vacant spaces, late nights, and early mornings over frosty synths and chugging guitars. The duo can still cast a mood, and that’s what makes this debut all the more frustrating -- all the parts are here, but they don’t come together as often as they could and should.

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