Proving Des Moines is NOT boring

Hanwell – Sweethearts of the 66

I wanted to write this grand piece about how the maturation process works. When I write these things I try to avoid doing the whole “let’s review an album” thingy and more of a “let’s talk about how the album affected life”. I always try to have some sort of overriding theme to these things and I wanted very much to talk about how Hanwell has changed from the precocious high schoolers who won a spot at 80/35 in 2009 to the more grown up sounding band that Hanwell is now, but to be honest, well.

2009’s version of Hanwell were kind of a surprising winner of the play-in spot, if memory serves.  They were a young band, although they had a lot of promise and talent even back then. But, I’m going to level with you and say that I honestly don’t remember what they sounded like in 2009. Therein lies the issue: as much as I want to talk about a bands maturation, I kind of don’t remember where they came from. I can only really talk about where they are.

Maybe that in and of itself is the lesson of maturation. You can talk about the past as much as you want, but the past is the past. We can really only focus on the here and now. Sure your past shapes you, but what good does it do to say, “Well, you used to be blank and now you’re blank?” So, let’s talk about what Hanwell is.

What they are is a gifted rock band who borrow a lot from folk multi-instrumentalists. They are a seven piece band, so there are members who are in charge of different instruments depending on the song and the need. The lead songwriter and singer is James Petersen, although the vocals are harmonized well both with his fellow band members, but also guest vocals from Dana Halferty of Parlours, Patrick Tape Fleming of Poison Control Center and Chris Ford of Christopher the Conquered (if I could offer any criticism, it seems a little bit off to bring in these talented singers and only have them act as back up singers. It feels a little like South Park having Jerry Seinfeld as the voice of a random turkey. Although, to be fair, I’m not sure where else you could use them on this album other than where they are already used.)

The harmonies are great and pitch perfect. Petersen has a kind of soft but strained vocal style that I could best describe as Springsteen’s Little Brother. His voice is much softer and less gruff than Bruce’s, but he punctuates his words with the same sort of pained finish that Springsteen is best known for. The style works well with the female backing. It all adds a certain softness to the vocals, and when they’re gone it is noticeable, but also likely strategic, like in “Fictions, Pt.1” and “Teeth of Wolves”.

The song styles are interesting too in that the songs all seem to go very quickly and sometimes end abruptly. It is an interesting style to take as a lot of songs that utilize similar techniques, with the multiple instruments and harmonies, tend to build and build and then hit really hard at the end. These all tend to build quickly and then maintain the higher energy throughout, giving the album a high energy regardless of the tempo of the song. Although, “Teeth of Wolves” is a bit of a different beast, as it hits much harder than the rest of the tracks and adds a nice change.

All in all this is an adventurous sound and a gifted album. It makes me want to see where they go next while also enjoying where they are now.


Try Not To Miss Shows: 6/7 – 6/13

So. Much. Stuff. You guys.

Christopher the Conquered  and His Black Gold Brass Band w/ Seedlings, Sean Huston and Dustin Harmsen – 6/7 9pm Gas Lamp

If you are a follower of this column, or Iowa music in general, you know why you should go to this show. If you don’t, you really need to go to his show.

This Music Is So Gay – 6/8 9pm House of Bricks

An awesome of LGBT musicians and talent including Olsen Twinns and Vaj of Courage. Awesome.

2012 Ice Cream Social – 6/8 9pm DG’s Tap House (Ames)

Ladysoal, Rebel Creek, Trillionaires and so much more. Oh, and free food.

Hymn For Her w/The Candy makers – 6/9 9pm Gas Lamp

A cool bluegrass, rock pop mixture. Lots of fun.

Summerfest in Campustown – 6/9 12pm – 10pm Campustown (Ames)

Here is the lineup:

2:00-2:45 – Holly Figeuroa

3:00-3:30 – Ramona and the Swimsuits

3:45-4:30 – Pennyhawk

4:45-5:30 – Peace, Love & Stuff

5:45-6:30 – Ladysoal

6:45-7:30 – Trouble Lights

8:00-9:00 – Leslie and the Ly’s

9:10-9:40 – Utopia Park

Gospel Music w/ Seed of Something, Pink Kodiak, Annalibera – 6/9 5 pm Vaudeville Mews

Lots of awesome rock music. Gospel Music is an interesting band with lots of keys and borderline silly lyrics, and Seed of Something and Pink Kodiak are super talented.

Prettygirlhatemachine w/Aeon Grey – 6/9 9pm Vaudeville Mews

Des Moines hip hop from some of the best.

Danielle Ate The Sandwich – 6/13 5pm Vaudeville Mews

Internet sensation turned real honest to God talented musician. Great songs from a talented singer.

An Airbag Saved My Life w/ Tires, I Blame The Sea – 6/13 930pm Vaudeville Mews

Noise. Lots of sweet glorious noise. I like Tires a lot.

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