The dust had hardly settled on Hella Better Dancer's quiet break-up when I started thinking about which songs were my favorites. While I've not known the band for long, only discovering them this year, I felt like I needed this exercise. Besides, I was already deep in their work, and had listened enough to develop a mental list of songs I reached for first. Since the band's output is rather small, the equivalent of a deluxe version of an LP, making a list longer than 5 songs seemed unnecessary. But that didn't make the task any easier.
Since numbers don't mean a thing, the songs aren't in order. Just 5 exquisite songs, not ranked. Enjoy.
Move Back In from Spring Demos 2012
Buzzy guitars stop, pivot, and rocket off in other directions as frontwoman Tilly's vocals walk the line between composure and breakdown. The rhythm section pushes her back into the confessional fray with "She told me to hush up/to chase his blues away/I'm feeling so much older".
Brother from Living Room
Absolute simplicity in a less than two-minute dirge, but no less devastating. The vocal delivery of the "Oh brother, don't be like that" suggests something tragic causing the mind to swirl with possibilities, while the haunting backing track adds to the mournful mystery. The amazing part is that the song was recorded in their living room using a laptop microphone.
Last Song from Please Stay Here
The first take of 'Last Song' featured a ska bounce, while the second version from Living Room was muted and somber. Despite the upbeat tempo, the band couldn't hide the emotional depth. Even then, I find it impossible to sit still when listening to it.
Like A Child from the Beech Coma Volume 2 Compilation
The band's final riveting effort is a coiled-up snake of a song brimming with a cool and confident swagger. It sounded sinister and dark, and hinted at future successes. Now we're left wondering what might have been.
Hundred Balloons from Swimming
Poignant and spellbindingly beautiful, a distillation of the band's grasp on mature melancholy. Sadness permeates every corner of this song, and it just might be their finest effort.
If you've been counting, you'll notice that I've listed 5 songs, but I couldn't walk away from this without mentioning the track I enjoy the most. I was going to exclude it since it's mostly instrumental, but that would be foolish because it's a stunning piece of work. Press play, back away, close your eyes, and drift into 'B2'.
B2 from Living Room
Picture yourself on a lonely, windswept winter beach with waves crashing all around, and the wind riffling through your hair. That's 'B2'. Angelic chants comfort, and bring peace even while feeling elegiac. So lovely.
For those interested in purchasing their music, follow the links below to Amazon.com or Bandcamp:
(Stay the Same, Fuse, Last Song, The City Sea)
(Say It, Twenty Three, Hundred Balloons)
(Brother, After School, Last Song, B2)
(Take This, Move Back In, Dull)
(Like A Child)
For more information on Hella Better Dancer: