4 out of 5
Label: Asthmatic Kitty
Produced by: John Ringhofer
I enjoy Half-handed Cloud, given I’m in the right mood. If I’m looking for something to really dive in to, and to give me some so-called “feelings,” HHC frankly won’t cut it. However, there’s a huge chunk of my days and weeks where I just need something to hum along to, or to make me tap my toe, and I’m forever appreciatively surprised by how John Ringhofer – Half-handed Cloud – has been able to use his definitive sing-songy voice and bouncy composition skills to deliver an endless stream of enjoyable pop across a slew of albums and EPs. That said – and this sounds much more derisive than I mean it to be – it’s something of a shtick: simple rhythms, minute long runtimes, and a slew of bells and whistles (or bells, guitars, keys, horns and whistles…) that can run together when listened to at length, making – to my ears – HHC’s shorter releases generally more memorable. Once the tracklist extends over 10 or so songs, I lose track of breaks between those songs, though it should be said that I think Ringhofer is generally mindful enough of sequencing to help give those longer listens an overall ebb and flow that makes them repeatably listenable, even if not much more than melody sticks in yer head.
These are all backhanded, unfortunately, but I do want to make clear that Half-handed Cloud’s twee stylings shouldn’t appeal to me – half a thousand other bands that fall into a similar sounding range certainly don’t – and the fact that I can’t identify a single song I’ve listened to from them in terms of which album it comes from should also be a knock… but it’s not. For over 15 years of songwriting, Ringhofer has continually presented his craft in a very unassuming but aware style that even allows all the Christ referencing to be inoffensive to mine heathen ears.
And so here we are, on Gathered Out of Thin Air, at, uh, sixty tracks, and yeah, that very much qualifies for my “too many songs” bucket. But I’m allowing for some wiggle room, as this is a compilation of several EPs, plus unreleased material, making it a prize of convenience – there are six scattered releases’ worth of stuff on here – and also because stitching this stuff together underlines that there’s a bit of thought in what goes on each of those releases: you can generally tell, with slight changes in instruments that are focused on, or the style of the songs, where the line between EPs is drawn. Listening to ‘Gathered’ altogether still has the effect of letting this stuff shmoosh into one long parade of dippy-dippy-doo singing… but again, wiggle room. I like when artists do us the favor of summing up odds and ends, so I’m showing my appreciation with an extra, glorious star in the rating.
For what it’s worth, the first LP is a bit more of a standout to me, and it coincidentally has a larger share of longer songs, but both LPs are absolutely pleasant from start to finish.