“Magic Fingers”, the lead single from Hands’ 2012 Massive Context EP, is cringe-worthy. In a failed Michael Angelakos falsetto, singer/keyboardist Geoff Halliday soured faces with his crackling upper-register. Now 12 months later on their debut LP, Synesthesia, Halliday has improved his vocal control and taken a step to the background as the other three members entice an early-summer audience with a refined ear for percussion that adds a twist to trending alt-pop standards.
Like Passion Pit, Vampire Weekend, and Foster the People before them, Hands make charming button-down collar rock, the type pleasing to both coeds and their suburban parents. Nostalgia is a heavy factor in bringing the two together. At times, especially during the layered vocals of “Videolove”, Halliday evokes memories of Perry Farrell’s vocal presence. ”Kinetic” showcases the outfit’s appreciation for smooth jazz and ’70s psych-rock with a splash of surf guitar. As the track’s bridge attests, guitarist Ryan Sweeney and newer members Sean Hess (drums) and Alex Staniloff (bass) have fused into a trio capable of rich grooves. Bringing the bottom-end to the surface of the mix, Hands creates a pulsating rhythm that expands their sonic breadth over that of their indie-dance brethren.
Too often, elements of the LP are unrecognizable from that of its competition. “Lonesome Bodies” is the album’s most infectious track because it listens like singles from their more prominent contemporaries pieced together. Of the album’s 10 tracks, it’s “Elegant Road” that comes closest to inducing a bout of synesthesia, with Sweeney supplying a riff that wafts through speakers like salty seaside air and a synth run that casts stars on the smoggiest of urban evenings.
Although in need of further development, Hands has at least momentarily solved the audio dilemma of family road trips.
Essential Tracks: “Videolove”, “Elegant Road”, and “Kinetic”