I first came across Seattle, Washington's Hey Marseilles in 2013 with the release of their second album Lines We Trace. Their mixture of orchestral folk, pop and rock earned that album a spot in my Best Albums of 2013 list at #17. Now the band returns almost three years later with their third full length, the self titled Hey Marseilles.
The first thing that jumps out at you about the new album is its sound. The lush strings are still there when needed, their melodic sensibilities are still intact, but there's a pretty obvious intention to apply a more overt pop sheen to this record. And damn if it doesn't work. Don't get me wrong, this is not a complete overhaul of the band's sound. Regardless of the Chamber Pop label they were tagged with early on, this has always been a melodic pop/rock band at its core. On Hey Marseilles, there are just a lot more electronic flourishes and beats than the band has utilized before. This slightly new direction came with the help of Grammy Award winning producer and engineer Anthony Kilhoffer who worked closely with the five piece from start to finish on the new album.
It pays off right from the opening as "Eyes On You" is one of the best tracks Hey Marseilles have released. Starting with somber sounding strings, which you might expect, they quickly add a drum beat before Matt Bishop's impassioned vocal kicks in. The song is both upbeat in tempo and melancholic in feeling and mood at the same time and it's fantastic. "West Coast" eschews most of the electronics to fit with more of the band's traditional sound and it is another essential track. Ballads were some of my favorites tracks on Lines We Trace and that continues on the new self titled release. "North And South" and "You And I" especially stand out, both beautifully melodic and bolstered by the string arrangements.
Hey Marseilles is a pop album at heart. The band has not lost sight of their signature sound, but their vision of what they wanted this music to be has resulted in their most accessible album to date. Hopefully it gains them the wider audience they deserve.
Favorite tracks: "Eyes On You", "North And South", "West Coast", "You And I"
Hey Marseilles was released February 5th, 2016 on the Shanachie label.