Sunday, June 23, 2013

Album Review: Her Royal Harness - The Hunting Room

Album Rating: B
It's a shame that Her Royal Harness's The Hunting Room almost inevitably won't find popularity easily. The album and its genre - self-professed "alternative pop" — are caught in an unfortunate chasm between (and maybe even nowhere near) the two markets of radio pop and radio-friendly alternative and indie rock. I don't see the bare-bones instrumentation of "Bear In A Trap" fitting in on the Hot 97s of the world, nor do I think the dark and driving "Blood + Fire" would do well on the alternative stations around the globe. This isn't a dig at the album itself, of course - plenty of good music won't show up anywhere near the radio. It's just a little frustrating to see an album as sullenly entrancing as this without much chance of appeal to the larger audience it deserves, barring a Pitchfork review or something of its ilk.

Because The Hunting Room is fascinating. It's almost the polar opposite of Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience, which will probably be the best pop album of the year come December and January. While the latter was characterized by its lush, sweeping experimentation and variety, this album is shockingly sparse and repetitive - and it's doubtful it would have worked any other way. Nothing akin to JT's luxurious falsetto and bravado is visible here. Rather, Her Royal Harness relies on darker, emptier sounds to convey a worthwhile album's worth of experience, frugally laying various strings and guitars over a core of persistent midnight synth sounds and simplistic, driving drums. Single "Unseen" is a good example of this phenomenon, as there's not much at all going on behind lead singer Helene Jaeger's alto croon. Aside from a straight (albeit slower-than-most) 4x4 beat and the occasional jangle of guitar strings behind the bassline, the piece is rather plain.

The album is all the better for it, though. Although the whole thing is rather short, just surpassing 35 minutes (and to be frank it would be difficult to listen to something like this for longer than that), it's chock-full of interesting material, a complete experience conveyed in an alluringly minimalist style. Her Royal Harness has created an excellent, if at times dragging, album, and it's a testament to what the group can do with so little that the whole thing is quite good. It's really disappointing that the chances this finds a solid home or fanbase are slim - the album does a lot with a little, and its spareness serves it well.


1. Mercenary Man
2. Bear in a Trap
3. Colour Me
4. Blood + Fire
5. I Can't Believe
6. Unseen
7. Submission
8. Your Heart is Harder
9. Factories

1 comment:

  1. this is a smart review, well written.