Hymn for Her Explore Facets of Both 'Pop-N-Downers' on New Album

Photo courtesy of Conqueroo

Photo courtesy of Conqueroo

Rating: 8.5/10

Lots of bands hang the “indie” label on themselves as a marketing tactic, but the term has never fit a band more perfectly than Hymn For Her (who, ironically, never use it to describe themselves). The husband and wife duo of Lucy Tight and Wayne Waxing literally live on the road, hooking their silver Bambi Airstream trailer up to campgrounds in whatever city they're playing that night. That troubadour mindset and DIY ethos infuses every song they produce. But on their new release Pop-N-Downers, Hymn For Her branches out a bit into more sophisticated melodies, more global influences, and more topical subject matter while retaining the psychedelic garage rock feel they've become known for.

The instrumentation on Pop-N-Downers is deceptively complex, driven by the superb cigar box guitar work of Tight, who very well may be one of the four or five best practitioners of that instrument working today, and anchored by Waxing's kick drum, banjo, and acoustic guitar work. The opening track, and first single, “Blue Balloons,” takes some Beatles-esque sonic shifts, careening between Tight's gentle crooning and more harsh rock bridges, all in service of a warning about climate change. It's easy to get lulled in by the sweet “floating away like a blue balloon” before getting hit with the snarled “intelligent minds of the world say it's too late, no more chances. The ignorant minds deny, say it's a left-wing lie, and argue the sky's never been blue, until their faces are blue and their children's are too.”

Hymn For Her also seemed to be inspired by their global adventures since their last album, 2016's Drive Til U Die, and the pair delve into global music on a number of tracks. “Roses” blends flourishes of Tejano and Flamenco guitar into their Americana sound. “Dingle Town,” an album standout, tells the story of a trip to Ireland, with instrumental fury that blends bluegrass, Celtic music, punk, and garage rock seamlessly.

The album's two best songs display the duality that pervades Pop-N-Downers. “First Clown on the Moon,” inspired by a stated career choice of their young daughter Diver (whose voice appears in a number of places on the album), is a fast-paced rocker that begins with a big top flourish and transitions into Lucy and Wayne's signature percussive rock. The whimsical lyrics and driving sound are sure to make this a popular live choice for years to come. It's the best representation of “pop” side of the album's title.

For the “downers,” none hits quite as hard as “Yard Sale,” which features a simple but haunting fiddle by Diver. What could be depressing about a yard sale, you might ask? Never underestimate Hymn for Her's ability to make even the most simple subject deep. A rare Waxing lead vocal turn, it reads like a newspaper ad for a yard sale, but the underlying meaning behind “yard sale, baby clothes... brand new” becomes clear as the song progresses and you realize a miscarriage (or a stillbirth) has torn a family apart. Waxing later details the “woman's clothes, used. Worn a couple of years, got a couple of stains, but they're only tears” and eventually “this house, last to go, never lived in. Just one little ghost.” It's an emotionally devastating song rendered with such simplicity and frankness that it only serves to drive the knife deeper, revealing truths so raw that they can't be elaborated.

Pop-N-Downers is certainly the most mature album Hymn for Her has ever made, and arguably their best. If you want to catch them in concert (and you do, trust me, their shows are a party), you'll have plenty of chances this Fall. There's no album release show for this one because Hymn for Her barely leave the road long enough to hit the studio. But if you want to be part of their traveling road show, here are the upcoming dates:

Tues., Oct. 2 STURGEON BAY, WI The Holiday Music Motel
Thurs., Oct. 4 TREMPEALEAU, WI The Historic Trempealeau Hotel
Fri., Oct. 5 EAU CLAIRE, WI The Pablo Center at the Confluence
Sat., Oct. 6 EAGAN, MN Bald Man Brewing
Wed., Oct. 10 COLORADO SPRINGS, CO Front Range,
Thurs. Oct. 11 DENVER, CO Mile High Spirits
Fri., Oct. 12 FRUITA, CO Hot Tomato Pizzaria
Sat., Oct. 13 DOLORES, CO Dolores River Brewing Company
Thurs., Oct., 18 DENVER, CO Cervantes
Fri., Oct. 19 COLORADO SPRINGS, CO Front Range
Thurs., Oct. 25 GOLDEN, CO New Terrain Brewing
Fri., Oct. 26 FRISCO, CO 10 Mile Music Hall *venue opening night
Sat., Oct. 27 FORT COLLINS, CO The Elizabeth Hotel
Thurs., Nov. 1 SALINA, KS The Voo
Fri., Nov., 2 KANSAS CITY, MO Westport Saloon
Sat., Nov. 4 LAWRENCE, KS venue TBD
Tues., Nov. 6 AKRON, OH The Rialto Theatre,
Fri., Nov. 9 CORNING, NY The Rockwell Museum
Sun., Nov. 11 HAMMONDSPORT, NY Stuebens Brewing,
Thurs., Nov. 15 NASHUA, NH Riverwalk Cafe & Music Bar,
Sat., Nov. 17 ELLSWORTH, ME Fogtown Brewing Co,
Fri., Nov. 23 STOCKHOLM, ME Eureka
Sat., Nov. 24 STOCKHOLM, ME Eureka
Sat., Dec. 8 MOUNT AIRY, MD Milkhouse Brewery