A minute into Thumbtacks + Glue’s opening track “The Saddest Music in the World”, Woodpigeon ringleader Mark Andrew Hamilton croons, “Oh you, just stop listening.” It’s a brash exclamation to put on the table for the listener, and it juxtaposes sharply with the song’s Fleet Foxes-influenced pastoral instrumentation. Even appreciating the irony, there’s a problem when such a self-deprecating statement isn’t backed up by quality tunes. Unfortunately, at some point through the Alberta octet’s fourth full-length, you’ll find yourself wanting to heed Hamilton’s command.
Hamilton’s voice proves to be the Thumbtack’s Achilles’ heel. It carries the wispy, breathy feel of an Iron & Wine, but where Sam Beam’s rustic vocals float like a leaf down a sunny river, Hamilton’s putters out like a deflated balloon, and he comes off as hesitant and unassuming. On “Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard”, his lyrics dissolve entirely into the background once he reaches the Andrew Bird-meets-noise-rock climax. He’s about as effective at getting a message across as someone shouting from the back of a crowded room.
Sonically, however, it’s hard to deny Hamilton’s ability to build a song. “Edinburgh” takes inspiration from the time he spent living in Scotland during his band’s infancy. He stacks layer upon layer of strings, organs, feedback, and folksy harmonies until you feel as if you’re standing atop a rolling Scottish hill. In many cases though, it takes him far too long to break through, and tracks like “Hermit” and “Sufferin’ Suckatash” end up running about two minutes too long.
Woodpigeon have the building blocks to break into indie’s big leagues, but after spending some time with Thumbtacks + Glue, it’s clear they still have a ways to go.
Essential Tracks: ”Edinburgh”