With their second album, Softer Faces, Canadian dream pop outfit Living Hour expand upon their already lush, deliberately paced style. This time around, Samantha Sarty and band had help in the studio from some prominent figures in the domain of otherworldly sounds, including Kurt Feldman of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Woods' Jarvis Taveniere, who co-produced the record. That only hints at all the factors in play on the album, however, as Living Hour weave fleeting dissonance, polyrhythms, brass instruments, and shifting time signatures into their hazy guitar and keyboard textures. In keeping with its druggy slow pace and overall improvisational feel, opening track "Hallboy" has some of the more prominent rhythmic experimentation on the album. The song is guided by two meandering guitar lines that sometimes lock into counterpoint and sometimes drift into dissonance. Meanwhile, Sarty's warm, ethereal vocals hover above, delivering short phrases such as the repeated "I am always" and "you always," as arrangements grow to include sustained cymbal rolls, trumpet, and trombone. While Softer Faces is distinctly lethargic and dreamlike throughout, "No Past" later offers a stripped-back presentation. Its echoing, pendulum-like guitar line, yearning lead guitar, and what sounds like vibraphone provide eerie accompaniment the singer's cautionary melody before the drums kick in over three minutes into the song. Variety also comes in the form of the catchier "Before You Leave" and the ultra-spacy, drumless closer, "Most." These differences don't quite interrupt the album's hypnotic flow, however, which remains beguilingly wonky, woozy, and epic.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson