It may seem strange that the members of Hella have gotten poppier and poppier since the height of their impenetrability from 2005 to 2007. Long-time fans, though, will recognize a penchant for melody amid complexity that dates back to its full-length debut in 2002.
Solos is a new project from Hella guitarist and cofounder Spencer Seim and avant-folk artist / temporary Hella singer Aaron Ross. Following the overt melodies of Seim’s synth-core project sBACH, Solos is a jaunt into slightly more avant-pop territory, combining Led Zeppelin-ish acoustic rock with psych-pop and Seim’s pounding, distinctive beats.
Ross’s vocal harmonies work overtime, and his contributions help to evoke the folksiest, most Polyphonic Spree moments with heavy, trippy pop. And though the Hella and sBACH influences are minimal, Seim leaves his imprint all over, whether via jack-rabbit kick beats and guitar hammer-ons (“Schooled Fools”), full-on riff climaxes (“Crackin’ the Modern Age”), or twisting rock rhythms and swampy distortions (“The Darwin Blues” and “They Don’t Care About Us”).
Refreshing in style, Beast of Both Worlds has the potential to be one of the year’s best pop-rock albums. It definitely has the best title.