Hopewell – Beautiful Targets (Tee Pee Records)

After impressing with two consecutive releases (the Notbirds EP, and The Birds Of Appetite), Hopewell have hit a snag in the road with Beautiful Targets. Where they once soared close to the heights of similar-minded groups The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev (where Hopewell singer Jason Russo once played keyboards), Beautiful Targets is weighed down by over-stuffed arrangements and off-key vocal yelps. The decision not to bring old producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Low, Wheat..etc) back behind the boards is a fatal one because the band sounds lifeless in the hands of new producer Bill Racine, with the exception of the orchestrations, which are so over the top on “Trees” and “Windy Day” that you might wonder if you’ve accidentally pressed play on Oasis’ Be Here Now. The only song that retains the old magic is “Monolith” and even there, you wonder what it would have sounded like with better production.
1 In Full Bloom
2 All Angels Road
3 Bethlehem
4 Tree
5 Windy Day (Giant Dancers)
6 Monolith
7 Over & Over
8 Echo & His Brother
9 Afterglow
10 Are You Anywhere?
11 To the Slaughter…

Hopewell – Notbirds EP (South Cherry Records)

This six-track EP serves as a clearing house for the leftovers from Hopewell’s 2005 album Hopewell and The Birds of Appetite. It opens with a slimmed down re-recording of “The Notbirds” turned into a great three-minute indie-pop song. Next is the ethereal country ballad “Beautiful Targets” where singer Jason Russo re-unites with his old group Mercury Rev for a track that, quite frankly, is far better than anything Mercury Rev has done since 2001. The emphasis on collaboration continues with “Silent Interlude,” recorded with The Silent League (also made up of ex-Mercury Rev members), though the track is little more than a throwaway that lives up to its title. Perhaps the best moment here is a cover of Gene Clark’s “With Tommorow”, which effectively showcases both sides of Hopewell’s musical attack. It starts as another cracked-voice country ballad and ends in an epic send-off complete with swirls of guitar noise. If this EP was is meant to whet the appetite for the group’s next album (due sometime in early 2007) then they’ve done well. That release date can’t come soon enough.