The conceit with which Hypatia Lake approaches its music proves to be vexing. That a band can be so fraught with "concept" that their very name is that of the fictional town about which they write all of their songs indicates the sort of overthinking that tends to be an effort to compensate for unlistenability. However, the very fact that this band cares so much about creating a complete listening experience means that they're likely to neither tolerate mediocrity nor cliché. Thankfully, in the case of Hypatia Lake, And We Shall Call Him Joseph is as musically invigorating as it is conceptually intricate. Lyrically, this disc focuses on the travails of one resident of Hypatia Lake, the town the band described on their first album. Joseph Bigsby led a sorrowful and quite dramatic life that led up to the climactic candy-factory insurgency of Hypatia Lake's debut. Sound dense and self-absorbed? Perhaps. Though it would certainly pain lyricist Lance Watkins to know this was happening, just ignore the lyrics for now and focus on the expansive and layered sound this Seattle quartet creates. Cherry-picking the most sonically satisfying textures of the last 20 years, Hypatia Lake recombines them into a palette that's swirling and ethereal, yet built upon solid, original songwriting foundations. The womb-rock spectrum from My Bloody Valentine to M83 is tapped for influence, as are the better practitioners of the chamber-pop movement (Eric Matthews, The Shins), post-psychedelicists like Spiritualized and pastoral looney-tunes such as Neutral Milk Hotel and Grandaddy. One song the plaintive "Farmers Can Be Jedi, Too" sounds like Galaxie 500's "Fourth of July" … except more stoned and symphonic. None of this is to say that Hypatia Lake are the sum of their influences; instead, Joseph represents a substantial step forward for a continuum of artists who place a high value on the currency of sound and, not incidentally, on the importance of lyrics.
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