Framing Hanley, a five-piece band from Nashville, TN, share’s little in common with Music City’s country music monopoly. Instead this band plays rock and roll, with a touch of emo. Envy is the act’s fourth album, and it’s an emotionally charged effort.
Kenneth Nixon is the group’s lead vocalist, and he’s joined by two guitarists (Ryan Blecher and Nic Brooks), bassist Jonathan Stoye and Shad Teems on drums. The best word to describe these twelve songs are ‘intense.’ Even when the sonic is tamped down, as it is on “Throwing Knives,” there’s an unavoidable tension in this music. Of course, the aforementioned title is also a big red flag; throwing knives is one level greater than, say, running with scissors. Album closer “Baggage Claim” is even gentler. Built upon a soft guitar part, this one finds Nixon letting his emotional guard down for a song filled with romantic thoughts. With a whole lot more twang, the latter could have been a more Nashville-like country song. Nixon even yodels (or might this be termed softly howling) near track’s end.
The album opens with “Say You Never,” which finds Nixon singing lyrics that make him sound like a prosecuting attorney cross examining a witness during a trial. This one uses Auto-tune with Nixon’s vocals, to give it a slightly different vibe than the rest of the album.
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One titled “Misery” includes the line, “Misery really does love company,” which may just be the album’s most emo lyric. Then again, emo bands – both the good ones and the baddies – were also known to give their songs long, complicated titles, and this song name is just one word. Self-deprecation continues, though, with “Joke’s On Us,” which is a softer, more meditatively sad song. “Forgiveness Is An Art” is one of the album’s more guitar-y songs – particularly its intro. The song title is also a truism. Forgiveness is one of those acts that is always so much easier said than done. Even when we offer others forgiveness, truly meaning it is even more difficult. It can sometimes look like when two fighting children are forced to apologize to each other. They may say the right words, but these apologies are oftentimes spoken through gritted teeth. A person that can sincerely forgive (and even honestly forget), is most decidedly saintly.
With “Puzzle Pieces,” Nixon is heard announcing, “I don’t wanna be another part of your puzzle.” You get the immediate impression this is one complicated individual he’s talking about and involving himself in that other’s life will make his life even more complicated. Oddly enough, though, the music on Envy is fairly complicated, which leads one to believe Nixon is also equally complicated. Maybe he’s trying to avoid the person/puzzle because he’s a puzzle himself.
Framing Hanley is, indeed, filled with smartly complicated rock songs. It’s not the sort of album that can ever be appreciated while played in the background. You might even think of these twelve songs as a dozen puzzle pieces. A jigsaw puzzle is always rewarding when you can finally see how it all fits together. No guarantee you’ll make full sense of Nixon and his bandmates after devouring this album, but it’s sure worth the effort.