Local Indie Rock quartet Tonefarmer has returned with its first new recording in five years, Helium 3, which gets the “album release party” treatment tonight at the Northside Tavern. The band will be joined by Canoes and The Ready Stance for the free, 10 p.m. event.
Recorded with producer/bassist for The Afghan Whigs John Curley at his Ultrasuede Studios, Helium 3 is not only Tonefarmer’s first album since 2007’s Meanwhile, it’s also the first to showcase the band’s current steady lineup of Rob Hamrick (vocals/guitar, formerly of local pioneers Sleep Theatre), bassist Chris Mundy, guitarist Kevin Welch (The Underwoods) and drummer Todd Drake (Magnolia Mountain, Ruby Vileos). Given how impressive the band’s mature Dream Pop sounds on Helium 3, it’s a lineup they should probably stick with.
The album’s 10 tracks all hover in the same sonic realm — mid-tempo, emotive Pop/Rock songs buoyed by a swaying, hypnotic vibe and spacey atmospherics. But the lack of diversity from track to track is more than made up for in the strength of the songwriting and performances. Like the more grounded highlights of The Verve’s Urban Hymns album (think “Lucky Man” or “The Drugs Don’t Work”) or the softer, romantic moments of the Smashing Pumpkins, Hamrick and Co. have crafted a collection of compelling songs that stand as the best of their impressive discography.
Opening track “The Moon is Calling” sets the tone, beginning as an airy bed of string sounds and Hamrick’s distinct voice (like a smoother Frank Black) before building to Tonefarmer’s trademark style. The rhythm section’s rock-solid foundation allows the highly memorable and spine-tingling melodies and chiming, sparkling guitars to send the song into the stratosphere. Other highlights include the catchy “Weeds” (a single in waiting) and the lovely twilight-mellow and transcendent hopefulness of “Curious Longing,” the perfect closer.