"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."
Hales Corner didn't start out as a band - at first it was a split release, a joint-album featuring the solo work of Wesley Cook (guitar, vocals) and Caleb Adams (guitar). They both had heartfelt songs that needed finished and some post-college apathy to shake off, so they rekindled a years-old artistic relationship. Wes helped with Caleb's songs and Caleb with Wes's, but the lines began to blur as the two worked together, wrote, and recorded. Pretty soon they were a band with a drummer (Ben Craig), a bassist (Ryan Boyce), and a debut record: Garden View.
To get a sense for Hales Corner, it's best to start with title track "Garden View". The warm, guitar-and-synth-driven song is, like the album, wistful without being dreary, poignant without being heavy-handed, and crackles with vibrant vocals. And those feelings are more than a writing exercise, they're baked deep into the ethos of Hales Corner. The band's name itself plays off Wes's memories of his childhood in Hales Corners, Wisconsin.
While Garden View doesn't really follow an album-long narrative, per se, it does reward patient listeners. Shorter, more pop-leaning tracks like "Garden View" and "Why Aren't You Laughing" are huddled near the front and help build momentum for the one-two knockout punch of album closers "Return" and "Sundress". These two songs trade in apathy for anguish, and climax with some truly powerful words: "I’ve lost the envy of those I’ve loved / They grew up and realized / what I‘m really made of."