The second album by adventurous Montreal band HuDost was produced by Malcolm Burn (Peter Gabriel, Midnight Oil) who gives their ethereal, sometimes country-flavored, sometimes goth-inflected pop songs a sheen that underscores their rustic side rather than glossing over it. With her clear, soaring voice, frontwoman/keyboardist Moksha Sommer echoes a couple of NYC rock legends – she’s something of a cross between a more overtly sultry Paula Carino and a less boisterous Juliana Nash. Perhaps adding to the already wary edge in her voice is that she recorded this album after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, but before the operation.
The album opens with the goth-pop epic Trespasser, a cut that with a little exposure will be a fixture in the background wherever black robes and eyeliner are found. About half the songs here take a traditional country ballad feel and add an unexpected edge, whether that might be exotic instrumentation (harmonium, bouzouki, oud and bendir) or a more hypnotic vibe – one of them sounds like a more interesting update on the Rosanne Cash hit Seven Year Ache. The most memorable track is an understatedly haunting number sung in both English and French, recounting how greedy developers paved over a cemetery for the poor people, ripped out the headstones, left the graves and with erosion the bodies came through the ground again. Of the other tracks here, there’s a catchy Beatlesque hit that morphs into new wave, a vivid, psychedelic midtempo chamber pop ballad, and the upbeat, tongue-in-cheek All My Guitars (sung by guitarist Jemal Wade Hines), an artsy pop song that wouldn’t be out of place inthe Snow’s songbook. It’s nice to see a band like this who don’t sacrifice content for commerciality yet have a theoretically almost limitless upside for hit potential: these songs are catchy, and thankfully, Canadian radio is mandated to push Canadian artists, so they ought to have at least one market locked up.
The best news of all here is that Sommer is in good health again and the band will be on US tour Sept 16-Oct 15, watch this space for NY dates.