"[Hales Corner] returns with yet another impressive outing, marked by guitar interplay and introspective lyricism."
A lot has changed for Hales Corner since their 2016 debut album Garden View. Wes and Caleb, the band's founding members, left Bloomington, Indiana, to begin playing and writing songs with a new drummer and bassist in a shared house on the south side of Indianapolis.
Recording at Melt Audio in Indianapolis provided a perfect marriage between the band's early, self-recorded sound and their dynamic live feel. As before, the intricate guitar interplay between Wes and Caleb remains the beating heart of each track, from the opening notes of the first song "Welcome" to the striking chorus of album-standout "Trixies" to the charming verses of "Cradles". However, the additions of Earl on drums, Chelsea (Wes' sister) on backing vocals, and Wes himself on clarinet further enliven the music; the songs are fuller and more vibrant than ever. It all comes together on bluesy, slow-burner "Reminder", with energetic, yet patient drumming and a sunbaked chorus that features Chelsea's harmonies and a smooth clarinet purr.
Lyrically, the band has never been one for starry-eyed optimism, and these songs are once again painfully grounded. The first track, "Welcome", really sets the tone: "welcome to the daily grind / you'll find your time / wasted before your eyes". Whether the openhearted and empathetic "we're all selling ourselves in this life" of "Whores" or the conflicted "they say the city has gone to the dogs" of "Trixies", Hales Corner refuse to shy away from what they see happening to themselves and those around them. It's earnest and honest songwriting.
Caleb sums it up best: "The album isn’t, or shouldn't be pitched as us bitching about the stuff we all have to deal with, but more of how that stuff can be unifying, absolving, and hopeful if you choose to actually look at it."
"Adams and Cook composed Garden View with enough self-awareness, even humor, about their post-college condition that it never gets bogged down in cliché or comes across as overwrought. On “Hand Me Down,” for example, the need to accept the responsibility of age, a large theme, comes in the form of a simple coat: "Someone left their coat on my floor / But I’ve got to go and buy my own / I’m too old to grow into someone else's clothes / But I'll wear it now for a while." Later, they raise the stakes gracefully, singing, “I’d like to leave my mind in a jar of formaldehyde / And let my body roam until it dies"—a line that is simultaneously grotesque, surreally funny, and, probably even more so because of those two things, overwhelmingly depressing."
"From a musical standpoint, the songs are artfully composed and weave together beautifully throughout the album, without feeling repetitive or overly similar. With two talented musicians behind the album, Garden View is the lofi meets sunshine rock puzzle piece missing from any tape collection."