Upon my first listen of Hey Marseilles’ debut album, To Travels & Trunks, my initial thought was that it sounded like an Irish band covering The Decemberists.
As it turns out, the band is from Seattle. So, basically, they’re a Seattle band with a French-sounding name pretending to be an Irish band pretending to be a Portland band pretending to be a group of turn-of-the-century sea-faring knaves.
OK, so maybe that’s not the most accurate interpretation. But, to me, they do seem to have two very distinct influences — The Decemberists and Irish music.
The band started slowly in 2006 when Nick Ward and Matt Bishop played together as students at the University of Washington. Eventually, they grew to seven members and released their aforementioned debut album in 2008.
While a huge hit in the Northwest, it’s taken awhile for Hey Marseilles to gain a wider audience. But eventually, the band earned enough praise to have the album re-released this year.
The disc starts and ends with instrumental tracks. So, the first real song, is the title track, which starts out immediately sounding like some Irish dirge before quickly transitioning into the indie folk that persists throughout the entire album.
The next track, “Cannonballs”, reminded me a little bit of The Avett Brothers’ “I And Love And You” — but just a little.
That was followed by the album’s catchiest song, “Rio”, which was my initial conduit into the band, via NPR’s Song of the Day. NPR’s Stephen Thompson described the song as “a worldly chamber-pop gem marked by a full-to-bursting, jauntily percussive sound in which seven people politely clamor to be heard.”
After the mostly instrumental “Cities” comes another string of solid songs, including “Someone To Love”, “Hold the Morning” and “You Will Do For Now”. Also in that mix is my other favorite from the album, “Calabasas”, which reminded me of something Great Lake Swimmers might’ve done.
Interesting sidenote … I first heard about Hey Marseilles shortly before leaving on a vacation to Portland and Seattle last month. I didn’t see them out there, but I did discover several other new bands that I’ll be reviewing in the coming weeks. So, stay tuned.