Hannah is a palindrome, a word that is spelled the same backwards as it is forwards. That’s the concept behind the second album from The Age of Rockets, the New York-based orchestral/electronic band fronted by Andrew Futral that also features Bess Rogers and Saul Simon Macwilliams.
The album’s eleven songs mirror each other from front to back. For instance, the bittersweet keyboard melody that ushers in the album’s opener, “What Story Down There Awaits Its End,” is reprised at the album’s other bookend, “Stitches to Show Something’s Missing.” One might miss the melody’s reprise, but Futral also makes lyrical references. “Delancey Street trembles beneath…” is sang in both tracks, at opposite times in the songs.
Futral’s palindrome theme probably goes over the head of most people on the first listen, but if the concept accomplishes nothing else, it gives the album great consistency, both in tone and in mood. The musical mirroring is subtle, but upon multiple listens, more of the record’s little tricks pop out. The cello riff in “Fearsome Though We May Be” is referenced and re-interpreted as an electric guitar riff in “H. Soft Escape.”
The Age of Rockets draw obvious comparisons to other electro-pop groups–most notably The Postal Service–but one striking difference is TAOR’s use of non-conventional live instrumentation. “Avada Kedavra,” opens with a chorus of voices, followed promptly by rhythmic blips and beats, and live orchestral strings dominate the song’s melody and chorus. Hannah also features trumpet, flute, harmonium and glockenspiel in addition to Futral’s keys and guitars, Rogers’ bass and Macwilliams’ drums.
The orchestral instrumentation and arrangements of Hannah add a human element to their electronic counterparts. Very little space in TAOR’s soundscape is wasted; filled in with four-part harmonies in “Elephant and Castle,” or lush, symphonic strings in “We Won’t Stop.” Hannah’s concept is unique–if not downright revolutionary–but even without its linguistic cunning, The Age of Rockets have crafted a record that is musically solid from front to back…and back to front.
Words by Bill Reese[Rating: 4/5]