On their self-titled debut, Howard Hello carved out a comfortable little niche for themselves in a simple, but elegant world of electronically-processed folk music. If their debut was more on the folky side of things, this follow-up has definitely passed over the line into pop territory, but that's definitely not a bad thing. This is lovely stuff, with as much influence coming from Steve Reich as anything you could hear on the radio. The result is another short album of nicely-progressing little tracks that again charm in flourishes and get stuck in your head much more than the previous disc.
One of the main reasons is that the release moves in many different ways than the last disc, all related to the above. While the first disc was more atmospheric, Don't Drink His Blood is filled with gorgeous melodies, overlapping rhythms, and instrumental pieces shine through more in their pure form rather than being run through the digital blender. As mentioned above, it's definitely more poppy and sing-song than the first disc, but it's nothing that will make you feel guilty in the morning.
The disc opens with the short "Intro," and is soon onto the gorgeous "Giving Up," a track that layers plucked guitar, flute, piano, and lots of other rhythmic and melodic elements into an uplifting little track that develops slowly and flourishes nicely at the end. "And As Always, Night Turns Into Day" builds layers of ascending, delayed guitars and keyboards into a shimmering haze which then morphs into the warm guitar progressions of "My Friend." It builds and unspools in a gorgeous way over the course of 5 minutes and includes soft male/female vocals and breaks off into a sing-song ending that will have you humming along on first listen.
That ending melody carries over into "The Parasite," and like the last release, Don't Drink His Blood is more like a 9-piece pop movement than individual songs. Most of them bleed into one another with elegant evolutions of continued ideas and although the release doesn't sweep to any dizzying heights, it also doesn't let you down at any points (although the croaky vocals of lead man Kenseth Thibideau may take some getting used to for some listeners). Sometimes delicate, sometimes lush, and almost always pretty, this is a breath of soft summer air to pocket through the coming cold days.