Why does every picture of England that I see always look like the saddest, most melancholy place on Earth? English countrysides always seem to be the most dismal places; the sky is always this sad shade of grey, the land is covered in fog, the skyline is littered with old crumbling factories and cottages overgrown with ivy and weeds.
The Cycle of Days and Seasons certainly sounds like it was recorded in such a place. It’s a minimal, sad affair. You could describe it as “mellow”, but “mellow” implies that the music is relaxing and comforting. Hood’s music is not. A sense of claustrophia and oppression lies under the surface of every song here. Not oppression in the sense that you’ll find yourself suppressing an urge to slash your wrists. Rather, it’s akin to that feeling you get in late autumn, when it feels like the sky has been grey and sunless for far too long, like you’re going to go crazy if you wake up to one more rainy morning.
For much of the album, the songs always feel in danger of falling apart. There’s a very tenuous connection between many of the sounds you hear. Snippets of conversation and various field recordings lend an almost ordinary, everyday feel to the songs. The melody fades into the background and a single horn or piano will drone on trying to find a place to call its own. The album starts off with “Western Housing Concerns”, which sounds like standard indie-pop fare, but most indie-pop doesn’t sound like it’s slowly dying in the process. “How Can You Drag Your Body Blindly Through?” sounds like The Third Eye Foundation suffering from Seasonal Affectional Disorder in the middle of winter after trading their samplers in for a guitar, drums, and cello.
Much of the time, I’m frustrated by this album. I’d read many glowing comments about it, had even read comparisons to Bark Psychosis’ Hex and Slowdive’s Pygmalion (two of the most perfect albums I know of). I wouldn’t go so far as to compare it to either of those albums, but they do give a decent indicator of Hood’s general sound. But The Cycle of Days and Seasons has a decidedly pastoral sound, like Hex had it been inspired by long walks through a countryside caught in perpetual autumn.
I say that I’m frustrated by this album because it’s very easy for me to dismiss it, when a part of me knows I should be enraptured by it. It’s not that the music is complex or revolutionary. It’s almost as if part of the album exists on some level just outside my normal musical range and I have to struggle to hear it. As such, I can’t recommend it with every fiber of my being. I know that some people might just see it as another one of your melancholy, rainy-day indie albums, and Lord knows that there are enough of those lying around in record stores already. But The Cycle of Days and Seasons feels like more, but only if listened to properly.
If you couldn’t tell by reading some of my other reviews, I tend to see music as a visual medium as much as an audible one. I love trying to attach visuals and certain scenes to an album, or even certain experiences I’ve had. As such, I see The Cycle of Days and Seasons being used in a movie set in the English countryside, the one I always seem to see, where it always drizzles and the best way to spend a day is cooped up in an old house, nursing a warm cup of tea and staring out the window at people scurrying to and fro. There’s a certain air of resignation in the place, a sense of loss for something you didn’t even know you had, a certain feeling that somewhere it must be brighter and sunnier.
Somewhere other than here.