An entire album can often turn on a single song. Take, for instance, Hungry, the solo debut from former Easterly frontman Noah Hall, who records as Whiskey Priest. Ten of the album’s eleven songs unfold unobtrusively if not memorably as Hall delivers breathy lyrics about lost love with minimal accompaniment from an acoustic guitar, xylophone, and the occasional ethereal noise sample. He shoots for the gravity-via-simplicity vibe — and falls one track short of pulling it off.
Nestled in the midst of Hall’s dreamy meditations about “having the faith of the mustard seed” in a faltering relationship and “breaking open a lucky blister” before realizing that he missed his departed lover is “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” From the moment Hall delivers the song’s inconic first line, he immediately morphs from purveyor of pleasantly bland lullaby pop to the type of effete strummer that serves as coffeehouse wallpaper.
Hall’s delivery of “Sweet Child” is hackneyed enough to call the rest of the album into question. The obviousness of the cover highlights shortcomings he could have gotten away with otherwise. Lines that skirt credibility are pushed over the edge when juxtaposed against Hall’s cheeky interpretation. The tentative goodwill he builds up through the passable first tracks of the album is torpedoed by the cover, ultimately scuttling the feeling of the entire collection. Hungry strives for transcendence, but Hall’s attempt ends up being one more collection of precious ramblings.