Just when you think you have Papoose figured out, H.D. Harmsen goes off in a completely different direction. One minute he’s singing something that sounds like an old American standard, the next he’s crushing guitar solos and singing with punk-like aggression. The dynamic shifts and genre switches make this album one of the most fun listening experiences of 2013 so far.
Having spent his musical career until now as a player in many bands but never the lead, Harmsen is quickly making up for lost time. He’s teamed up with fellow Iowan Chris Ford (Christopher The Conquered) to create a genre-bending collection that reminds me of Tom Waits, and Harmsen’s lyrics are every bit as deep. The most impressive thing about Papoose isn’t that Harmsen changes up the style so often, but that he does it so well. With every new sound that comes up you’re forced to believe that he could make a great album in any of these genres.
Your favorite song is sure to depend on your personal preference of music-type. Mine is the guitar-heavy track “The Divorce.” Harmsen’s voice is buried beneath the drums and bass so you can barely make out the words, but his voice somehow fits perfectly into the music. After a blistering solo the vocals become more prominent, and the song gets even better. This is one you can listen to over and over and hear something new every time. It kinda sounds like early Green Day at times, only if Green Day had given a damn about their instruments being in tune.
Other early favorites are “A Love Forgotten,” which mixes a great horn section with a driving kick drum and stellar electric guitar work to create an indie rock companion to Chicago’s “25 Or 6 To 4.” “How To Kill A Monster,” a melancholy tune about depression that slowly turns into a Supertramp-like big arena singalong/jam band freak out. And finally the title track, “Papoose.” I think my favorite vocal performance come here, as Harmsen is singing “Come cover me.”
This album was definitely a labor of love. Harmsen and Ford work together brilliantly, and their vision for the album screams through on every song regardless of style. Hopefully now that Papoose has been released, we will start hearing serious talk about a H.D. Harmsen/Christopher The Conquered/Gloom Balloon tour. At least in the Midwest.