The Hounds Below

You Light Me Up in the Dark

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Jason Stollsteimer is almost certainly sick to death of the words "Detroit garage rock" after spending a decade as the leader of the Von Bondies, and it seems he's determined to never hear them again with his new group, the Hounds Below. While their first recordings were a mélange of retro-styled vocals and uptempo post-rock, the first full-length album from the Hounds Below, You Light Me Up in the Dark, sounds like a throwback to the big-haired glory days of '80s alternative rock, suggesting a meeting point between the Cure, early U2, the Pixies, and a number of other bands of similar vintage, and Stollsteimer's vocals have lost the Orbison-esque phrasings of the group's first EP in favor of a more straightforward yet epic-scale approach that sounds like he's aiming for a prime spot on the 120 Minutes playlist. The result might sound quaint if it weren't so muscular; guitarist Skye Thrasher's leads peal and rumble with genuine authority, bassist Matthew Hofman and drummer Griffin Bastian hit hard without needless clutter, and the production and mix make this music sound big, spacious, and powerful. The Hounds Below make canny use of dynamics as well, and the slow build of "Conversation" and the hard-edged report of the drums over the rest of the instruments on "Swimming with Swimmers" shows these guys have spend plenty of time working out the angles of this music. The Hounds Below sometimes sound like they're living in the wrong decade on You Light Me Up in the Dark, but they'd probably have fared well in the era of their influences, and the strength of the songs and the ensemble performances suggest they might make a mark in the 21st century after all.

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