A Venn diagram of the musical genres that go to make up this thing we call Americana would be an enormous and extremely complex entity. It is such a joy that so many excellent and diverse musical styles can be enjoyed under this huge umbrella label and provide us lucky listeners with a never-ending stream of quality songs and artists. Residing comfortably in the Indie-Americana circle of the aforementioned diagram is ‘The Longest Part of the Night’, the latest album from Modern Hinterland, a record of reflections of life in modern Britain.
Modern Hinterland has developed from Chris Hornsby’s solo project into an excellent band with Tim Thackray on bass, Colin Marshall on drums and Simon Shippey on guitar. They cite Neil Young and Wilco as inspiration, but there are many other influences on this very melodic, smart and absorbing album. Opener ‘I’m Not One of the Free’ sets the Indie stall out nice and early, with some bright guitar and a gently building chant to take it home. “I was watching the rolling news/as I find I increasingly do”- now there’s a line defining these modern, confusing times!
‘Right Here in My Heart’ has a bright quality, with a rhythm that reminds of the B-52s, plenty of guitar and handclaps, while ‘The Zombies’ feels like something the Kooks or Blossoms could have recorded. ‘I Can’t See You Again’ is yet another hook-laden track – this album is full of ‘em – with a great flow and more strong guitar. A flower-power era megaphone makes an appearance on ‘Why Can’t I See You’, an interesting song title given the previous track, but is one of the strongest lyrically, which is saying something given the high bar of this record.
‘Eastwoods Park’ has a Mumfords’ character to it and a drum opening that feels as though it is intended to confuse the listener; not a different time signature as such, and which although quirky becomes a little distracting after a while. But keeping up the pleasant surprises, ‘Mary St’ has a blasting horn-section traversing (yet another) strong melody.
‘The Lights’ was inspired by the feelings of grief and loss that Hornsby experienced when his brother died some years ago, but had added meaning when the day after the song was demoed, his best friend passed away. As Hornsby states “….it sort of supercharged it going into the studio.” It sure did. The album closes with ‘Just Be Sitting With You’, an atmospheric slower track, lots of cymbal play and moody guitar to take it all home.
This is an exceptional album, full of cracking melodies and hooks and lyrically strong. Hornsby says, “I think we have found our voice on this album.” Well, they certainly have and it’s a powerful and very listenable voice.