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Audio CD, May 10, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Hal are brothers Dave (26, lead vocals/guitar) & Paul Allen (23, vocals, bass), Steve Hogan (28, drums) and Stephen O’Brien (27, keyboards). All hail from in and around Kiliney, a town just south of Dublin, Ireland.

Hal’s debut album is populist and arcane, modern and timeless. Most groups aren’t endowed with a voice as breathtaking as Dave Allen’s, whose falsetto gives Hal’s songs a saintly luster and evokes the days when rock was sun-kissed. The harmonies he forges with brother Paul (it’s a blood thing, see Everly Brothers and the Wilson brothers) are warm enough to melt the coldest of hearts.

About the Artist

Kiliney, Ireland’s Hal are a hymn to blissful isolation.

"We’re pretty removed from any band scene at all," says Dave, whose parents were a double act on Ireland’s folk circuit. "Every so often people will recommend a new album to me and I’ll play it for a couple of days or whatever. But I always return to the artists that I love – people like Harry Nilsson, Brian Wilson and Van Morrison."

"Every time we stick on the records we love," says Dave, the mouthpiece of the band, "we always hear something new. There’s an old Buffalo Springfield song called ‘Expecting To Fly’ that Neil Young wrote that he took a month to record because he wanted to get it just right. We’ve done that too. We’ve deliberated over a guitar sound that we know is in there somewhere and would make the song sound amazing." Needless to say, Hal are equipped to do just that. Aside from Paul, 23, whose first band this is, they bring years of experience to bear upon their songs. Dave, 26, has been in groups since his early teens, having joined a shoegazing outfit when he was 14. Stephen, 27, an ex-archaeologist, started even younger, gracing his first band aged just 12. He had referenced everyone from The Cure to Joy Division before, via a friend, he met Dave in the late ‘90s. Immediately, the pair struck up a rare songwriting bond, composing for two years every night, though both of them had day jobs, obsessing over each and every aspect of Hal’s sound.

"We’d hang around at my dad’s house, in his backroom," says Dave. "He’d come in sometimes and see us, a piano, a keyboard and piles of his dirty washing, and mutter something about us needing more lead guitar." Instead of heeding Dave’s dad’s advice the pair enlisted Paul, who’d cycle home, post-practice, from his father’s in Kiliney to his flat in the city centre, crashing out at 3am. The core of the group in place, they wowed The Sugar Club in Dublin, securing a gig a month until - six months into their schedule - Rough Trade beat a host of labels to their signatures. Since then they’ve enjoyed a spate of on the road adventures, touring with Doves, The Delays, Starsailor and Grandaddy, none of whom sound like Hal. Then again, who does?

Maybe the idiosyncratic nature of the band can be ascribed to Dave, who is lovably odd himself. Not only is he blissfully unaware of other bands ("People say to me, ‘Do you know this band and that band?’ And I’ve never heard of any them"), but he enjoys collecting postcards and badges ("I’ve got a very nice one of the zebra crossing at Abbey Road"); recording conversations which he slows down and/or speeds up, adapting them for use on his answering machine at home; and unearthing 18th century, er, gentlemen’s manuals. "I found this book called A Gentlemen’s Companion: A Guide To Victorian Vices, which is a collection of all these stories about brothels and what a good brothel keeper should have in her boudoir. It lists all the addresses of brothels in London, Amsterdam and Edinburgh, and what you could expect to get for your money. I read out a chapter every day when we were on tour."

1. What a Lovely Dance
2. Play the Hits
3. Keep Your Love As Your Golden Rule
4. Don’t Come Running
5. I Sat Down
6. My Eyes Are Sore
7. Fools By Your Side
8. Worry About the Wind
9. Satisfied
10. Slowdown (You Got a Friend)
11. Coming Right Over

Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 10, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Rough Trade Us
  • ASIN: B00096S3WW
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #504,316 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Emmi Skywalker on June 23, 2005
Format: Audio CD
How to describe this music? I'd say: Brian Wilson meets the Beatles. It is clear that the Allen brothers grew up with their parent's music, including the Beach Boys, The Beatles and other 60's and 70's music. Though their music is more like Smile than the Beach Boys albums.

HAL has re-entered a path in music that has only been trodden by Brian Wilson before them. Their music is extremely cheerful, very catching but above all things: truly beautiful!

Finally a young band that dares to make music inspired by the oldies! Some might worry that a debut album this good can hardly be exceeded by a second album, but I do not fear this. HAL has so much musical talents and the fact that their music is unique!

This album is a must for those who love beautiful music inspired by the 60's and 70's. I have rarely heard a better debut album in my life!

For better samples, go to HAL's website: [...]
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By andrew johnstone on June 11, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Melody, harmony, sophisticated lyric, thoughtfull arrangement. This album is full of great songs. Its uplifting and timeless in the way the best pop music is. Have been playing it for a year and have never tired of it. Favourite track:Worry about the wind.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David D. Dudley on September 23, 2005
Format: Audio CD
The Allen brothers voices are simply amazing and the arrangements are flawless. The care they bring to each song is evident, in that each one is its own universe, but somehow the album maintains a cohesive tone. Each song has unexpected but plesant surprises -- an a cappela break here and or an acoustic bridge there. It's one of the few albums over the last five years that bears repeated playing, always offering something new to the attentive listener.

If you loved Pet Sounds, you need to own this album!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nick Fulton on November 1, 2005
Format: Audio CD
If you're a huge Beach Boys fan, then you will almost certainly dig this band. For a bunch of lads from Ireland, Hal's sound is distinctly American. You could slot this record into a box set of classic albums from the 1960s San Francisco scene and no one would blink twice. Lester Bangs probably wouldn't even notice. It's refreshing to hear a band brave enough to bring back happy, lazy Sunday, summer pop.

Hal's self titled debut attempts to strangle the current rock progression, directing music back to a time when musicians bought love and peace into everyone's living room. There're no songs about shooting, pimps or drugs, just eleven beautifully crafted love songs. The soft melodic lyrics roll off David Allen's tongue effortlessly, and the sweet piercing backing vocals give Hal's sound a definitive edge. I'd love to say something bad about this album; there just isn't anything bad to say. Each song is different from the last, all charming in their own special way, each with the potential to make you suddenly burst into song at any moment. "Satisfied" and "Slow Down (You've Got a Friend)" run slightly repetitively into each other, but its no big deal

As the weather starts to warm up, spin this album, grab a beer and something to smoke and just chill out. When Hal finishes, have your vinyl copies of Crosby, Stills and Nash's 'Renaissance Fare' and Simon and Garfunkel's 'Bookends' ready to spin. You'll have all you need for a afternoon in the sun.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Danielle on May 12, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Hal is a breath of fresh air in a world filled with bubblegum pop and wannabe rockstars. It is 60's-esque with a modern twist. Sweet harmonies and cool beats lend an old school feel that almost sounds like it came off a vintage vinyl. Songs like "Play the Hits" are upbeat and will put you in a good mood, but the rest of the album is more subdued. I can't stop listening to it.
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