. : : October 9th, 2011 : : .
Hopeful Monster is a band of rotating members surrounding front man Jason Ball. As a Halifax native relocated to Toronto, his career has followed an identical trajectory to Rebekah Higgs, making him an ideal opener for the set of residency gigs Ms. Higgs would be performing at the Drake Underground.
For this particular performance, Jason Ball left the band and keyboards at home, and performed this set solo and acoustic. He had to apologize a handful of times for the extremely loose and somewhat flawed performance; Ball is primarily a pianist who transposed the parts to guitar. It was clear from the opening song that Ball was out of his element strapped to a guitar, but credit where credit is due: he persevered and made the best out of a difficult situation, improving markedly as the evening aged.
Part of the unlikely success of the setlist is the charm Ball exudes — not only with between-song banter, but also the delivery of vocals and melodies. Ball’s voice is surprisingly similar to recent Nada Surf‘s Matthew Caws; think Here Goes Something from their album Lucky, and you’d be on the right track. But Ball’s voice and melodic charms have a sort of sweet, child-like quality to them that makes me wonder why he doesn’t write songs primarily for children. This was underscored when he performed a song “about a super hero” called Mama Llama, a song that sounds perfect for an early grade school class room.
Hopeful Monster’s set was a scant 20-minute, six song affair, mostly consisting of material from the forth-coming third Hopeful Monster album currently in the midst of tracking, but fans need not worry — the material seems much inline with the five singles the band has made available on their blog.
The recording is crystal clear, as you’d expect from the Drake Underground shows, but there are two large level adjustments throughout the tape, so the songs don’t really near an ideal volume until about halfway through.
01. Don’t Make Me Over [Burt Bacharach]
04. Mama Llama
06. No Alibi
09. Isla Formosa
Thanks to Jason Ball for treating us to a sneak peek at the next Hopeful Monster album. I’m looking forward to hearing how some of these songs turn out with the full studio treatment!