CD Review: Hammock – Oblivion Hymns

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I was in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada the first time I heard Oblivion Hymns. I’d just clocked out after a long day at work, went back to the hotel, and put my feet up. I’d been thinking about the album all day: What would this new chapter sound like? How different would it be from Departure Songs? To what new places would the music take me? With some time finally all to myself, I put on my headphones, dimmed the lights, and submerged.

The album opener, “My Mind Was a Fog… My Heart Became a Bomb,” left an instant impression on me. The delicate play of piano keys during the intro lulled me into an immediate state of calm, washing away all traces of the day’s struggles. Then, at around the two minute mark… explosion. The heavenly strings of the Love Sponge Quartet launched a full-scale assault on my senses, and I surrendered willingly, knowing that the next hour of my life would be filled by something far beyond my expectation.

Oblivion Hymns unfolds like a piece of origami as you listen. It’s more of a journey than an album, each piece intricately composed, laid out, and arranged for maximum impact. Ambitious and far-reaching, this record plays to Hammock’s true strength, which is to say that Marc and Andrew are architects, and Oblivion Hymns is a blueprint of master craftsmanship. An instant classic, and well-deserving to be a part of the band’s catalog.

Although still present, Hammock’s signature wall of guitars takes a backseat in favor of neoclassical elements including strings, French horns, glockenspiels, and even a children’s choir. The mixture is subtle and splendid, with no one section overpowering another. To fully appreciate its depth, one must listen to this album multiple times. The songs are like treasure chests, and you find yourself closer to unlocking the prize with each attempt.

Each track is special and stands on its own merit, but I would be remiss to not specifically make mention of track eight, “In the Middle of this Nowhere.” Any attempt to describe this song would be doing it a great disservice, so I will only say that it arrives without warning, and leaves all too soon. It fills my mind with glorious visuals, and my soul with a healing touch. It could very well be the greatest Hammock song of all time, a claim I do not make without proper consideration. If not the greatest, certainly one of the top three.

As an added bonus to listeners that purchase direct, the exclusive tracks “Sleep” and “Cathedral” are included in a digital download. Make no mistake, these are no mere throw-ins. Each continues the thematic presentation in their own way, while adding something different at the same time. “Sleep” brings with it a dose of familiar guitar effects and droning bass notes, and “Cathedral” offers the soothing textures of a delay pedal, and softly-plucked acoustic guitar. Both, well-worth the effort to obtain, and fantastic additions to the album.

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Hammock makes music that you hear with your heart, not with your ears, and Oblivion Hymns is no exception. With an expanded arsenal of tools at their disposal, Hammock has created something that is sure to stick with you long after the last track has played. The experience is unforgettable. If cast iron and stainless steel are built to last, then Hammock albums are crafted to score eternity.

In a word, breathtaking. In another word, masterpiece. Whatever the future may hold for Hammock, there is little doubt that Oblivion Hymns will become an influential and referenced work within a library full of rich, meaningful melodies. On a scale of one to ten, I give it all the stars in the sky.

CD Review: Hammock – Departure Songs

I don’t normally do music reviews. In fact, this is my first one ever, but when you encounter something as meaningful and personal as Hammock, it tends to make you want to sing its praises from the mountaintops.

A brief history: 2006 was the roughest year of my life, and many of my days were spent in solitude with nothing more than my thoughts to pass the time. It was during that time that I stumbled across Hammock’s Raising Your Voice… Trying to Stop an Echo. One listen was all it took, and my musical horizons had been forever changed.

Hammock’s music is nearly impossible to describe. I could throw about a hundred adjectives out there, but none of which would ever feel like the perfect encapsulation. Dreamy. Hypnotic. Beautiful. Life-changing. None of those are incorrect, yet they fail to do the music justice.

Though a bit simple, I summarize my experience with Hammock as follows: I have listened to music my entire life, but it wasn’t until after I discovered Hammock that I actually heard it.

Back in July, Hammock released a video from their upcoming album for a song called “Tape Recorder.” I must have watched the video fifty times, never growing tired of it. As gorgeous as Hammock’s music has always been, I had never found myself as immersed in sound as I did with “Tape Recorder.” I feel no shame in admitting that it brought me to tears.



That brings us to October 2nd, 2012, when Hammock released their latest offering, an epic double album titled Departure Songs. Clocking in at nearly two full hours of ambient bliss, Hammock continues to do what they do best, and yet, seem to evolve with every album. Each time I think that they can’t get any better, they prove me wrong, and I’m elated to be.

Hammock set a new benchmark with 2010’s Chasing After Shadows… Living with the Ghosts, but Departure Songs blows right on past it without apology. Tracks such as “Ten Thousand Years Won’t Save Your Life,” “Together Alone,” “Pathos,” “(Leaving) The House Where We Grew Up,” and “Hiding But Nobody Missed You” are immediate standouts, but there isn’t a dull track anywhere to be found. In fact, the album is so coated in complex eardrum pleasing layers that your favorite tracks will most definitely change between your first listen and your seventh.

Departure Songs is less an album and more an emotional exploration. It will make your heart both sink and swell over the course of its duration. Your mind’s eye will get an extended workout as the textures of sound hit your temporal lobe with the force of a mack truck and bring serene images to life.

If you are new to the splendor that is Hammock, Departure Songs is an incredible place to start, full of nineteen rich and tasty morsels that are slowly digested over multiple listens. If you’re like me, you’ll wonder why it had taken so long to find them, and immediately seek out their other recordings (which is money well spent, I might add).

If you are already a Hammock fan, then there is nothing I’ve said in this review that you didn’t already know, and you are well aware of their brilliance. In which case, I thank you for reading any way. 🙂

This review is rather wordy, but the bottom line is this: If you have not yet purchased Departure Songs, you should. If you’re not sure whether or not their music is right for you, then I strongly encourage you to listen to some samples and find out. Hammock could very well be the same musical awakening for you that they were for me.