Even my shitty high school Rage Against the Machine-rip-off band knew it wasn’t cool to self-title a song. (That’s why “Close Combat” never made it into our set list.) But the members of Hallelujah the Hills don’t care. One of the best moments of their debut album comes on that self-titled cut, when the woozy instrument pileup drops out and frontman Ryan Walsh is left alone to yelp “I was born in Vermont, and she was born in Vermont/ and we’ll all die in Vermont, Hallelujah the Hills!” The Boston septet calls this its fight song, which only makes the band — and its bashing, charmingly ham-fisted take on indie pop — even more endearingly low key.
Hallelujah the Hills will remind you of acts that maybe you love: the low-budget-orchestra feel of Bright Eyes of old, that twenty-guys-in-a-room-grabbing-any-instrument-at-hand vibe; the Decemberist’s sojourning unevenness and Colin Meloy’s way with words (see Walsh’s groundbreaking and repeated use of the word filibuster in a love song); and most of all the Guided By Voices ethos, the way Robert Pollard and company would cut off a perfect little pop riff a minute and a half in or distort vocals for no discernible reason.
But Hallelujah the Hills sounds like a band blissfully under the radar, haphazard and carefree; the lone trumpet, the melodica workouts, the layered guitars, the vocal filtering. It feels like the best work of music-scene lifers, captured in a packed practice space, busting their ass if only for that look on one another’s faces. The kind of shoulder-shrug ‘tude that leads to excitable frayed-edges kitchen-sink debuts — and to self-titled songs.