Ah, the virtue of patience. If you’re going to take thirty-five days over a sixteen month period to record you first full length album, it better be as skillfully crafted as HIJK‘s brand new CD The Pen and The Letter, released in August to very positive critical reviews for this Oakland trio.
Previously known to many Bay Area music fans as Hijack the Disco (before the unfortunate popularity of Panic! At The Disco compelled the name change), bassist Mike Mahony and guitarist Dave Tsui actually started on the East Coast in 2002. Relocating to Oakland in 2002, the guys met drummer Trevor Wencl and have spent the years since developing a dense sound that catches you with hummable melodies and emotive lyrics framed within atypical song structures and a diverse sound palette.
It’s a pretty impressive mix for a tight trio who can call to mind bands as varied as Jimmy Eat World and Squeeze while still subverting the verse-chorus-verse approach dominating rock today. Their approach reminds me a certain amount of Muse, another band that writes songs using some traditional alternative rock elements and refashions them into complex yet catchy works. Like that band, there’s an exciting unpredictability to the songs on The Pen and The Letter, as moments of quiet beauty turn into moments of danceable uptempo rock which then turn into something else entirely. Still, the album feels very consistent as well, as for all of the musical variation, there are lyrical themes of love, regret, memory,a nd possibility that exist throughout the record.
Working with an experienced record producer like Enrique Gonzalez Müller (whose credits include a lot of groups HIJK sounds nothing like) certainly helped as well. Under a less watchful eye, the amount of different sounds and phrases in each song might have resulted in either a chaotic, muddled mess or an overly slick reduction. Credit also is certainly due to the guys’ abilities as musicians as well as the chemistry that Mahony and Tsui have in delivering back-and-forth vocals.
All of this is to say HIJK is an exciting group to watch in the San Francisco scene. The band is headlining shows around the city in the next couple of months and you really should check them out if you can:
155 Fell Street San Francisco, CA, Thursday, October 11th 8pm, $8, w/ Rademacher and Two Seconds p:415 861 2011 The Knockout
3223 mission st, at valencia st. San Francisco, CA, Wednesday, November 7th, 9pm, $8, w/ Rademacher p:415 550 6994
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