Canadian Musician

A Welcome Addition

Hopeful monster is an evolutionary term, referring to the process by which an organism mutates to the point of being recognized as a new, unique species. Likewise, Hopeful Monster, the band, springs from recognizable musical DNA to create something worthy of celebrating on its own terms.

An ace arranger, JBall revels in studio layering and stacks of harmonies a la Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys or more contemporary soundscapers like The High Llamas. "Both of those references have pretty sophisticated arrangements, which is something that I've been working towards," says Ball. "They're both good shoulders to be standing on."

What keeps the baroque sound of Hopeful Monster intriguing is the infusion of rootsy elements, like steel guitar and fiddle, punches of horns here and there, and brightly strummed acoustic guitars. Among the standout tracks, "Daily Electric" offers Bacharachian horn parts, bouncy pop piano and theremin. "Goldmine" is a deftly written ballad adorned with steel guitar and vibes, and "Cobra Wings" shimmers and soothes like an afternoon in the shade of a palm tree. Ball's voice is the perfect instrument for these tunes, evoking comparisons to pop vocal princes like Todd Rundgren or Carl Wilson.

Hopeful Monster is a welcome addition to the diversity and ongoing evolution of East Coast music.

Jim Kelly