The first solo record by Appleseed Cast frontman Christopher Crisci is a lo-fi delight, strongly recalling Neutral Milk Hotel's early work, but not bound to Jeff Mangum's twitchy lyrical pose or occasional forays into weird for weird's sake. Crisci's voice and acoustic guitar are at the center of these ten songs (plus two brief untitled instrumentals), but the true star of the album is multi-instrumentalist Jordan Geiger, who throws trumpet, banjo, glockenspiel, a tinny-sounding toy piano and various other unexpected instruments into the mix. The album is roughly and noisily recorded; at times, the tape hiss and distortion seems to be another musical layer to the songs, as on R. Stevie Moore's '70s material, but even more so than Appleseed Cast's most recent albums, Early Morning Hymns moves far away from the tortured emo stylings of that band's early records. It's not quite lighthearted, but a loose, casual sense prevails on the album that makes it an early and often more enjoyable listen than Crisci's main group, and the best songs -- the Elephant 6-style psych-pop of "The Blue Eleanor" and the haunting, echo-filled "7th Fret Closer" in particular -- are among the catchiest Crisci has ever recorded.
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason