Title - 'Once Upon a Time In the West' (Atlantic)
Artist - Hard-Fi
I was a big fan of Hard-Fi's debut album, "Stars of CCTV", which went to #1 on the charts in the U.K. I was worried that it would be all but impossible for the band to surpass its first effort. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. Not only is "Once Upon a Time In the West" musically and lyrically the equal of the first album, I believe in many ways it is superior.
Back are the infectiously catchy hooks, the sing-a-long lyrics, and the head-bobbing grooves. Stylistically, the album borrows much from Clash influenced punk rock, the latest trends in indie rock, and Motown R&B. This is one of those albums you can listen from beginning to to end without skipping any tracks. While most of the songs are full of energy, the album does pause several time for slower music (songs which I personally love). Thematically, the album tackles the topics of loneliness, alienation, boredom, and yearning. The mixture of quick paced fun music with mostly melancholic lyrics creates a uniquely satisfying effect on the listener.
The album opens with the first single, "Suburban Knights" and doesn't miss a beat the rest of the way. There are several sing-along anthems: "I Shall Overcome", "Television", "Can't Get Along (Without You)", and "Little Angel". As well as some stripped down rock ballads: "Tonight", "Help Me Please", and the finale "The King". Each song is refreshingly unique without trying too hard to be so.
Hands down, "Once Upon a Time In the West" is one of the best albums I've heard all year - potentially, one of my all-time faves. As if that wasn't enough, it features the greatest cover art ever. Hard-Fi deserves to catch on in America as they already have in the UK. Buy this album! It does not disappoint.