By Cody Mello-Klein
There are very few times where I am genuinely pleasantly surprised by new musical acts anymore, however (with that disclaimer in mind) I was taken aback by Everything I Own is Broken, the new release by indie-rock trio B. Hamilton. From the first track, nay the first note, to the very last guitar chord I was taken on a ride through various moods and musical styles; and let me tell you it was all absolutely fantastic (for the most part).
The above label of “indie-rock” for this band is merely to present a broad stylistic overview of this group, for the band takes so many twists and turns stylistically that it’s clear they are messing with the preconceptions of genres. Whether it’s the indie-punk squall of “Me and Margaret Counting Countdowns,” the blue-rock drawl of “Miss Carolina,” or the country twang of the title track. Despite this genre bouncing, the album still maintains a cohesiveness that is astounding. This is mostly due to the band’s ability to put a unique twist on each of these genres that remains true to their sound. Ryan Christopher Parks’ echo-laden guitar seems just as home on the soulful “Gold Tooth” as it does on the more hard-driving “Turn Out the Lights.”
Drawing many elements from classic 90’s bands like the Pixies and Sonic Youth and more recent 90’s revivalists, namely Silversun Pickups, B. Hamilton utilizes the quiet-loud dynamic to great effect on this album. Songs like “Dolltime (for Swans and Bulldozers)” is filled with this dynamic tension that creates such a great feeling of a musical roller-coaster. However, this would not be possible if it were not for the great chemistry that the band members have with one another. This is showcased brilliantly on the aforementioned “Dolltime,” a track which features the low, rumbling of Andrew Macy’s bass mingling with Matt Crowley’s drumming to such an extent that at times it is difficult to tell where one musician ends and the other begins. On top of this, Parks’ guitar adds echoing accents during the verses and then erupts, along with the other two musicians, during the choruses while his eerie, almost soulful, vocals jump along with the drumbeat. Then just as the track seems to be dying down, the band erupts into a monstrous, echoing jam that would fall to pieces were it not for the competent musicianship and chemistry of the individual members. Of course, like many tracks on this album, the vocals are a bit buried in the mix at times, overpowered by echoing guitars and crashing cymbals, but the powerful, sometimes soulful nature of Parks’ vocals still shine through.
Almost a month ago I reviewed the Carrousel album 27 rue de michelle, a meticulously laid out and orchestrated album that was excellent in its own right. B. Hamilton represents something completely different. Every part of this album is a little piece of organized chaos that comes together in a joyous expression of pure energy. Never showy but never lack-luster, these three guys create a wall of sound that is raw and energetic, yet never feels contrived. The journey that they take you on feels free-flowing and natural, even as they jump from country to rock or blues to soul. Beginning with the punk-rock intensity of “Me and Margaret Counting Countdowns” and ending with the hauntingly beautiful “Oakland and Anaheim (Ain’t Divided by the 5 Tonight),” this album is defined by changes that seem spontaneous yet work so well they are dumbfounding.
Unfortunately, the album does not end completely with “Oakland and Anaheim” but instead an alternate version of the title track, labeled the “Fixing Fucked-Up Shit Version,” is tacked onto the end. Although it is a nice addition, it feels a bit unnecessary. However, sometimes muddled vocals and one or two throw-away tracks can’t stop this album from being one of the most fun and surprising albums of the year. B. Hamilton takes the listener on a musical journey that is filled with joy, sadness, the blues, echoes, and a little bit of soul, and every second of it is pure, joyous chaos.