Review: The Haunted Continents – The Loudest Year Ever (2010)

The Haunted Continents waste no time on their debut album, The Loudest Year Ever. The New York-based do packs 10 tracks into just 31 minutes. Although the album is quick, its 1950s pop rock style doesn’t leave the listener dissatisfied.

The record kicks off with the three-quarter swing of “2ndAve. Blues,” a cute little pop song that is surprisingly upbeat for the subject matter – being dumped. The retro influences are immediately apparent, with do-wop backing vocals and a classic three-chord progression. While this has been a tried and true formula for countless bands trying to emulate Buddy Holly, the Continents spice it up with lots and lots of guitar fuzz.

Overall, the album is well-balanced – fast-paced and slower songs share about equal time and are distributed so there’s a nice rise and fall that keeps things interesting, both in the musical and emotional sense. The pop tunes are perfect for blasting through rolled down car windows, and the ballads are ready for when you need to be nursed through that brutal breakup. No monotony here, dear readers.

Other notable upbeat tracks include “Cure For The Blues,” which takes on some country elements and features some quirky, but endearing, yelps and hoots in the background.  ”She’s My Only One” showcases the other decade that influences the Haunted Continents, the 1990s. On their website, Weezer is indicated as an influential presence on the album, and that’s apparent here, where the music, although briefly, moves away from vintage pop to something more contemporary.

In the album’s slower spots, songs take on a lovelorn cadence, which vocalist James Downes conveys perfectly. His often quivering vocals fit perfectly with tales of a relationships gone by. It’s easy to believe he really is heartbroken. This is especially apparent on “Nothin’ To Be Done” as he heart-wrenchingly sings about how the girl he’d hope to marry “don’t love me anymore .”

And not to mention just how catchy the songs on this album is would be a crime against it.  Anyone who isn’t humming along by track two clearly isn’t listening.

Musically, Downes’ singing and guitar skills are the standout elements on the album. Not only does he demonstrate impressive vocal range and control throughout the album, but his guitar tracks perfectly accent the songwriting on The Loudest Year Ever without being too polished. There are moments where string squeaks or out-of-place partial strums make it to the track, but it only adds to the album’s already fantastic character.

Rating: 8.2/10

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