The Burden of Hope

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AllMusic Review by Brian Way

Grails are like that worn and comfy leather jacket that you've had for years and years: it slips on easily and conforms to the contours of your body, immediately soothing you with its warmth and its recognition of its owner's body shape. The Grails = Jacket Theory may be too objective to prove, but the metaphor is apt in that every Grails song is immediately recognizable and fits your listening experience in comfort and style. That is not to say that it is predictable; Grails' brand of instrumental/post-rock is unique yet still resides within the confines of known dimensions. Their compositions are earthy and utilitarian, perhaps even leathery like the jacket, well-worn, comfortable and workhorse-ready. Most tracks are of midtempo pace, guitar-and-violin-driven, and loud/soft dynamic-oriented, like many of their peers. But what makes this brand name different and appealing, like the distinctiveness of a very personal article of clothing, is the detailed minutiae: the guitars have a sweet hollow-body tone, the violin swoops and squeals with Dirty Three abandon, the drums, courtesy of Holy Sons' Emil Amos, are close-mic'ed, where you can make out every nuance of snare rattle and cymbal crash. The songs, while majestic and evocative, are almost interchangeable on Burden of Hope, their debut album, all flowing into one another and telling a chapter in an album-oriented tale. One of the standouts is an unlikely cover of Sun City Girls' "Space Prophet Dogon," which they impossibly manage not only to do justice to, but perhaps make their own. The story told on this album is, like the jacket, worn and cracked with time, yet remains a joy every time it is slipped on.

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