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Punker turns Alt-Folkie


Hanalei - We Are All Natural Disasters
(Thick Records)
3 stars (out of 5)
Reviewed: Aug. 2, 2004

Review by Tony Bonyata

Mixing acoustic-driven folk music with indie-pop rock sensibilities, Chicago transplant Brian Moss (formerly of the post-punk band The Ghost) has just released his debut album We Are All Natural Disasters for Thick Records under the band moniker Hanalei.
Recorded and mixed in a mere week at Chicago's Hyperspace Studios last May, the satisfying results actually make it seem as if much more time and care were taken in its creation. Shying away from the guttural angst-ridden voice that he used fronting his previous band, Moss' vocals here instead playfully interact with the airy melodies and gentile compositions without ever overpowering them. Other than the addition of a live drummer and backing vocalist on a few tracks, the entirety of the instrumentation was done solely by Moss.
Many of the musicians' frail numbers prove to be exercises in what pop music can be. From the simple beauty of "Smart Means Sick" to planting his shovel deep into the soil of Americana on the numbers "Anza Ninety Three" and "Eulogy" to the electronic beats and programmed sounds that bounce and bubble through "Action Drum" and "Josh and Sarah's Belated Wedding Present," this is a folk album for a generation weaned on indie rock and now ready to settle into something more laid back and meaningful.
The only slight drawback is that the overall tone and timing of the album is rather one-dimensional. Other than a couple of brief moments, such as "Hopeful Hands" and "This Is Going To Be The Best Summer Ever," which find a raw, sense of urgency in Moss' vocal delivery, the pacing - despite some strongly penned numbers - comes off a bit slow moving and lacking in texture.
Honest at times, vulnerable and introspective at other, Hanalei is, nonetheless, a singer/songwriter that shows a lot of heart, along with quite a bit of promise.

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