Sophomore albums are a tricky thing for an indie band with equal parts cred and good debut under their belt. If they make songs that are too similar to their first release on that second LP they’re derided for a lack of progression and if they push too far forward they’re chastised for changing their sound – or even worse, selling out.
Thankfully for Winnipeg indie-band This Hisses and their brilliant new album Anhedonia none of these criticisms can be made. Anhedonia is luminous education in rock and roll, combining sonics steeped in surf, electric-blues and punk-rock with solid songwriting and a good sense of melody. It is a bold step forward from their impressive debut album Surf Noir, taking the raw song-writing and impressive sound that worked so well on their first LP and pumping it up with bold vigor.
Borrowing its title from a psychological condition resulting in the complete absence of pleasure, Anhedonia is an album steeped in pain and suffering, in all of its forms. But this is hardly a downer of an album, instead raging against the dying light and offering one of the best releases by a Canadian band of the year thus far.
At the forefront of this album is the storming vocal prowess of singer-bassist Julia Ryckman. Bringing some angelic vocals to the blackened surf sound, Ryckman’s contrast to the sonic-landscapes created by guitarist Patrick Short and drummer Jean-Paul Perron actually ends up being a perfect compliment.
Opening with the bluesy title track “Anhedonia”, This Hisses offer up a sound slightly akin to Florence and the Machine to start, but with a lot more grunge at its core. The feisty mood continues in the albums second track – and single – “Blacksmith”, with its pogo-inducing punk chorus and siren-like wails. And when I say punk the distinction must be made between the real goods and the immature brand developed in ‘the noughties’ by Blink-182 et al. This is punk rock we’re talking about, and it comes up in a big way in songs like “Farm Lovin’ Boy” and “The Long Slow Crawl”.
But there’s more to this album than just angst by way of power chords and rhythm. Steeped within the glorious noise are some soulful numbers which while harking back to some more classic sounds still maintain This Hisses’ trademark noir-rock sound. On “My Love He Shot a Sparrow” the band slows down for a drowsy surf-ballad that could have very well found it way on a Tarrantino soundtrack had it been released some time before ’92. “Icelandic Blue” has a similar surf-rock sensibility, by offering it up by way of Sun Studios and a little woeful Memphis soul.
For all the differing influences on this record there is thankfully still a consistency throughout. Hardly sounding like a mash-up of genres, Anhedonia is a fine experience in cinematic rock and roll and the sounds of noir by way of Winnipeg. An impressive feat for a band only beginning to find its stride, Anhedonia is definitely a collection of songs worth picking up.