When I was younger, I would listen to music on my discman whenever I went on car trips with my family. As I sat in the backseat, lost in the melody of my chosen selection, I would daydream about different scenarios associated with the music. Sometimes I would imagine what a music video for a certain song might look like. Sometimes I would picture entire album-length movies set to the music I was listening to. And sometimes, I would just look outside and stare, my mind a sponge as I would soak in the subtlest tones of my listening choice at the moment.
I’m reminded of these trips when I listen to Hood’s Outside Closer, because in each song, the Yorkshire four-piece creates a dream world of their own. Each song is a movie or work of art, with each subtle chord change bringing about some plot change or transformation of scenery. With a heady combination of glitchy electronics and pastoral, acoustic folk arrangements, the group seems to take the most disparate of elements and join them in harmonious sonic matrimony.
For years, Hood has been playing experimental pop music that has earned points with many a music critic and fan alike. But Outside Closer seems to be more intriguing and accomplished than even their most impressive past work, which most would say was 2001′s Cold House. Each song is a mini-symphony, some sweeping and grand, some gentle and sleepy. But every note is firmly settled in exactly the right place, leaving no space for sloppiness or indulgence. Don’t let that fool you into believing this album is rigid and unlistenable, though, because it’s very much alive.
After a brief drone-heavy intro, Hood cuts to the chase, beginning with “The Negatives,” a dirgey, but danceable marriage of IDM and disco. It may be a bit too advanced to compel many to actually bust out with their best pop-and-lock routine, but it certainly has potential among the more forward thinking of hip-shakers. Next in line is “Any Hopeful Thoughts Arrive,” which begins with a stark acoustic guitar riff, layering on new instruments, such as twitchy drum samples and a rumbling bass, the likes of which is heard throughout the entirety of Outside Closer. “End of One Train Working” is one of the tracks that evokes images of rural, fog-draped England, as many reviews before have noted. And “Winter 72″ is as cold as its name might imply, extending out over an icy tundra, much like Sigur Ros have been known to do.
Then there’s “The Lost You.” Oh, “The Lost You,” how it wraps up the best aspects of today’s music into four ear-enrapturing minutes. A cut-and-paste series of samples begins the song, leading into a hypnotic soup of melody, sounding something like a mix of My Bloody Valentine and Four Tet. And that bassline, how heavy it rumbles beneath the gliding samples. If you were at first hesitant to dance to “The Negatives,” this single might push you over the edge, forcing you to spin uncontrollably and flail about like a graduate from the Ian Curtis school of dance.
And all the while, you listen and visualize scenes set to these songs, whether they be a 2025 disco, a barren glacier, a foggy hillside or a rainy street in London. These are some of the winter’s most evocative songs and will quickly return you to such frigid places in the middle of July. Outside Closer is breathtaking and, dare I say, essential. Should I happen to make a trip up the coast by train any time in the future, I’ll make sure to have this disc at my side.
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