Gospel choirs are beginning to make for some completely original, addictively wholesome listening. While high-energy, organically-driven, gang-vocal folk-rock has become rather popular (thanks Mum&Sons), I’m of the opinion that the genre still has quite a bit of life left to it. Listen to Through the Deep, Dark Valley by The Oh Hellos, and you’ve got my reasons why I think so.
Hailing from San Marco, Texas, siblings Tyler and Maggie Heath self-produced this gem with the help of their local church and other community musicians. Proclaiming it a self-contained concept album (*GASP!*), the band has crafted something strangely salutary and wholly self-sustaining. While the album’s not exactly for the faint of heart, it is one of the most enlightening full-lengths I’ve had the pleasure of discovering this year. It’s actually the perfect length, clocking in at around 40 minutes from end to end; and in all, is a strong, fiery march through the creative minds of the duo.
Like many of the albums we’ve featured, TTDDV is meant to be experienced in one sitting, with each track listened to in succession. That’s not to say that individual songs aren’t worth cherry picking, but the album, as a whole, remains much greater than the sum of its parts.
Tyler and Maggie do a wonderful job setting the scene. They meticulously fabricate an earthy, back-country atmosphere that’s hard not to get lost in. It’s much like a landscape photograph that creates a sense of desire to visit the serene location it’s depicting. For that matter, it could be construed as a colorful painting that simplifies all of the detail of that photograph, portraying only the parts that make it dream-like and exotic.
The energy of the album ebbs and flows seamlessly, and remains as gripping during its downtempo, sparsely instrument laden portions as its uptempo parts. The simplicity of the album also works in its favor, featuring only a few additional instruments to the classic indie-folk lineup. The chorus that the band employs throughout the album makes their presence well worth it, helping to sculpt out the sense of space that defines so much of TTDDV. Led along by Tyler and Maggie’s powerful vocal prowess, the band always ends up sounding larger-than-life.
The Oh Hellos matched their ambition, then far exceeded it with Through the Deep, Dark Valley. Where the album excels is in its ability to grab you, make you forget where you are, and transport you to another world. If only for a few moments at a time, that is well worth the time invested to immerse yourself in this seemingly epic musical narrative. The digital download is available for free at the moment. So, what are you waiting for?
Sounds like: Bruce Peninsula, Mumford & Sons, Poor Remy
Stand out tracks:
Take a listen to my home-brewed instrumental/indietronic album
"The Past Is a Story We Tell Ourselves"
I'm told that it sounds like The Album Leaf, Balmorhea, and Emancipator.