Tall Hands

Tall Hands

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Tall Hands have dubbed their sound "boat rock," which leaves even their publicist scratching her head. Well, the rock part is self-evident, but who knows where they're sailing to with that boat? But hey, it'll sound great in interviews, and truth be told, the bandmembers themselves must be at a loss about how best to define their diverse sound. Swinging from atmospheric Velvet Underground-ish songs to more punk-fired numbers, the Hands slither with suppleness around styles, which is infuriating for the critics who try to pin them down but splendid for fans. The discerning listener can extract a dozen different influences that pop up on this set, but so crafty are Tall Hands that as soon as you identify them, they're gone. Frontman Justin Raisen doesn't so much sing as intone, which suits the band's storytelling-styled lyrics; he's the narrator, with his bandmates occasionally chiming along in exuberant harmony. Sometimes the lyrics are deliberately obscure, but they're always captivating and at times spellbinding -- as is the music, and in the case of the very Velvety "Medici," almost hypnotic. "Fifteen on Ice" has a similarly wonderful blurred quality, a song full of dancing shadows. "Introduction to the Razor," in contrast, is as sharp-edged as its title, with a surprising singalong chorus, while "Three Full Virginias" is an unabashedly gleeful R&B-flavored rock & roller. The rest of the set falls between these two poles, with each number featuring its own unexpected twist. "On Top of Time," for example, is a hefty ballad that wryly pays musical tribute to Phil Spector. "It Won't Be Longer" fast-forwards to later in the '60s, then into the '70s, tipping a hat to half a dozen bands and styles along the way. Tall Hands is one heck of a debut, and one can only imagine what they will do across a full-length record. Listen to this and you won't be able to wait to find out.

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