Outside Closer

Certain songs seem tailor-made for rainy days. Sometimes the association emerges from experience or exposure but other songs are so suited to saturated skies that any appreciation is incomplete until paired with the appropriate measure of precipitation. Hailing from a particularly dreary region of England, post-post-rock-lap-pop progenitors Hood deal almost exclusively in such stormy soundscapes.

Consequently, Hood spends precious little time in my various vessels of music transmission. Now it’s not that Hood isn’t particularly captivating or alluring in their own way. They are. But I live in sunny Southern California where the days amenable to Hood’s watery wallow-songs of detached longing and languid regret are all too few.

As it is, there’s been scarcely enough time since 2001 for me to fully fall in love with their masterful Cold House. But enrapture me it did in what few rainy slogs and depression groves I’ve waded through or wondered in since its release. What sad times and scenic rains I’ve seen since have not been passed without reaching for the cold comfort of that record.

Rather recently I’ve seen storms of such severity they’ve swept small cities out to sea. And all along there’s been a hearthurt bleeding gloom though old wounds re-ruptured by the latest greatest heartbreak. Into all this, Hood released their most recent record, Outside Closer. As much as the album prior, it is another collection of sad songs with sick beats so well-suited for sunless skies and drenching days.

Hood’s capacity for capturing this ambiance emerges from their employment of ambient as well as other genres. Blessed with restlessness, Hood has explored almost every creative process from shoe-gaze and sample symphonies to glitchy big beat and Timbaland-tapping dance tracks. This proclivity for exploration has left Hood on the periphery as bands like Radiohead, The Postal Service, and The Notwist have refined and retooled similar such experiments to greater success and broader accessibility.

Still something remains to Hood that proves completely compelling even if not instantaneously addictive. Though they may not master pop-craft they still can capture mood with uncommon accuracy. Through strings, strums, and samples they evoke desolate depression and hurts held dearly. The fidelity of such forays rings so true that independent appreciation apart from the event or experience is almost impossible.

Though this may limit Hood’s overall appeal, it also establishes them as masters of their own peculiar and particularly sad aesthetic. Their very weakness becomes their greatest strength as they shake off hooks and melodies like rain drops from a storm soaked lapel but do so with such sense of style that even this simple shrugging displacement of water seems so much like a willful act of art.

Outside Closer carries on this casual virtuosity with a slightly greater degree of success. Previous Hood records have been graced only by a few singular stand-out tracks that stand alone apart from all their brethren in their own unique perfection while all other songs lay back and languish in their own melancholic miasma. Outside Closer exceeds that expectation by infusing almost every song with some indelible hook or signature. “The Negatives…” comes on strong with stuttering stadium boom-bap before decaying into symphonic swells and finger-plucked pensiveness. Conversely, succeeding song “Any Hopeful Thoughts Arrive” progresses from hesitating house kicks to full-on shoe-gaze stomp with bittersweet string embellishment.

Still, not every song is a success. Every Hood record suffers its sacrifice to sonic experimentation. Here it’s the inconsequential “(Int)” and “Closure” which smack of padding parading as conceptual necessity as well as the dub-damaged dissonance of “Winter 72.”

Nevertheless, Hood remains the kind of band that is not so much faulted for their missteps as they are praised for their progressive strides. Their appeal has never been so much about ready gratification as much as it has been about continued contemplation. Still, Outside Closer proves to be their most readily gratifying effort and may be the single best introduction to their work.

So snag up a copy of Outside Closer while there’s still enough rainy days to appreciate it.

Don’t believe me? Then listen to “The Negatives…” and contemplate how wrong you were to doubt me.

Now listen to “You Show No Emotion At All” from Cold House which may not be the best introduction to Hood but is still probably their finest record.

So buy Cold House already. You won’t regret it. I promise.