Groups! Groups! Groups! In 2014 we reviewed a lot of talented country groups here on the site and it made it difficult to choose the winner of Country Perspective’s 2014 Group of the Year. We ultimately chose First Aid Kit, but any of the other groups nominated could have won. Well 2015 is shaping up to be quite similar and we’re only in March. Blackberry Smoke, The Mavericks and The Lone Bellow have all released albums that will be candidates for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year award so far. Needless to say the bar has been set. So when I came across alt-country/indie folk band Houndmouth and their new album Little Neon Limelight I didn’t expect them to meet this bar. The group based out of Indiana made up of Matt Myers, Katie Toupin, Zak Appleby and Shane Cody faced a tall task. But I love when I’m proved wrong. Their new album is awesome and I’m going to do my best to explain why.
The first song of the album is “Sedona,” which is about the city of Sedona, Arizona and harkens back to the days of when it was known as “Arizona’s Little Hollywood.” John Ford, a famous Hollywood director, basically put this little city on the map as it helped start three decades of A-list movies being made here. You can read more about Sedona, Arizona here (this information was obtained from the book on the town). The instrumentation in the song is upbeat, yet reflective and the vocals are quite good. Katie Toupin’s voice is front and center on “Otis.” She sings from the point of view of a woman who holds a man named Otis dear to her heart. I enjoy the harmony in the chorus, as it gives it a bigger punch to listener’s ears.
The sound of rock and country from yesteryear combine to produce an awesome song in “15 Years.” The group’s vocals are infectious and the instrumentation is impossible to hate. You can tell Houndmouth enjoyed making this song and the listener will have just as much fun listening to it. “For No One” is one of the quietest tracks on the album, as well as one of the most alluring. It’s a ballad that seems to be about life and personal discovery. Myers in an interview with NPR described it as a “personal tune.” Interpret this song how you want to, all I know is it’s immersive and intriguing. Greed is the theme of “Black Gold,” as it’s about a rich family who accumulated their wealth via their involvement in oil. The guitar licks in this song are great and the lyrics are quite catchy.
Houndmouth keeps it simple with “Honey Slider,” a song about a man getting his heart-broken and left wondering what has happened. The bluesy guitar licks set the tone of this song perfectly. The group goes back to their fun side in “My Cousin Greg.” The song is about a cousin named Greg, who isn’t exactly normal. There’s also a message in the song about how if you want to live the good life, it’s best to stay away from the limelight. This is one where you can sit back, have a few laughs and enjoy a fun song. The slow and haunting “Gasoline,” is about a woman who explains she burns faster than gasoline. In other words, she isn’t the settling down type and her love burns pretty quickly. Toupin’s voice shines and really gives it the bluesy feel needed to make this a haunting song.
“By God” is a rock country song with a rocking beat and a subtle, sinister undertone. It’s about a man who has things going wrong around him and insisting for them to “turn out the lights,” but to leave his “candle burning.” The harmonies are spot-on throughout. Everything in this song simply works to make for one of the best songs on the album. The penultimate song on the album, “Say It,” is about a man telling the woman of his desire to lower her expectations so she could be happy with him. The tone isn’t very serious and it’s more playful than anything, as his charm starts to win her over. It’s another song where the listener will have just as much fun hearing it as Houndmouth had making it. Little Neon Limelight concludes with “Darlin’,” one of the most country songs on the album. From the lyrics to the combination of the guitar, piano and organ on instrumentation, it proves this. The vocals of the band soar throughout the song and leaves you hooked from beginning to end. Hell I can say that about this entire album.
Little Neon Limelight is flawless in every aspect. Houndmouth’s vocals are dynamic and the harmonies will stick with you for a while. Each song tells a story or conveys some sort of emotion in the listener, which is what great music does. While there are a few somber songs, this album is mostly fun and even mixes in some good humor. This is an album I thinks some people might let slip through the cracks and miss out on. Don’t be one of these people. Anyone who appreciates great music should hear it. If you’re into groups like Shovels & Rope or The Lone Bellow, you’ll enjoy Houndmouth even more. I highly recommend this album. Without a doubt one of the best albums I’ve heard in 2015.