Turning on the radio, computer, or television can seem like a gamble, at best. Each new tuning offers a deluge of anxieties to greet us. In the face of this 21st century tumult, Humming House is on a quest. They do not want to wish away the pain and fear all too real in our lives, but to put those elements in conversation with the elements that sustain us: hope, partnership, even joy. And so, their newest album begins with Tam's unmistakable voice intoning, "I want to be your companion." It's an appropriate beginning for a band who has built itself on complex musicianship and careful collaboration. They know the value of hard work and compromise. Their music is evidence of the thrill of creativity.
What Humming House does so well is paint sonic landscapes that are at once compelling and honest, even in the most rollicking of songs. Revelries, their second full-length album released in 2015, was largely influenced by the band's history of touring. Its songs revealed the power and revelations that come from travel. Companion continues to pursue that which transforms. In part, it is still movement, movement that comes easily to the body as well as movement driven by the unease we daily brush up against. What's most powerful about Humming House is their ability to be present with you, to take those moments in life that seem mundane and shift the lens so that they are rendered extraordinary. Theirs is a music of presence.
The first half of the album is infused with Indie Rock, especially in songs such as "Can't Stay Away," "Takin' Over," and "Make it Through." The influence of quirky 90s rock, a la Cake, is there too. "Takin' Over" adheres to the Humming House desire to move you and is emblematic of those moments in our lives where the rhythm of the things that we love: music, friends, family commandeer our bodies until we're compelled to move in joy. "Sign Me Up" and "Companion" nod to Paul Simon, while "Silver Lining," "Find What Waits," and "London" gesture to Humming House's long engagement with classical composition and songwriter driven melodies so strong in the realm of Americana.
The album isn't all hip swinging bravado; halfway through, "Silver Lining" will stop and compel you to attend to the broken things that shape us. "Make it Through" and "Hope in My Head" are prisms to transform difficult days into livable ones. "I Want It All" does justice to the nostalgia and influence of a favorite album, while "Sign Me Up" conveys the increasing distance between our digital, urban lives and the ecosystems that sustain us. "Wishing Well" is a late album gem, an invitation to come to terms with our collective humanity, a difficult enough feat in the current torrid climate of politics, environmental concerns, and general unease.