“Go and take the millions, and the Derby hats, and stick ’em up your —,” Houndmouth guitarist Matt Myers drawls on the acid-induced ballad For No One, that is indicative of the band’s second album, Little Neon Limelight.
The band that hails from just over the border in New Albany, Ind., and rose out of the Louisville scene with its noir take on Americana, dropped a startling debut in 2013 with From the Hills Below the City. It was filled with beautiful harmonies, spare instrumentation and vivid stories you frequently hoped weren’t too autobiographical.
Limelight finds all those strengths sharpened in 11 songs presenting a distinct cast of characters and images that are never sunny, even when the music sounds that way. Leadoff track Sedona presents us with a bright chorus out of the Southwest contrasted with images of blacklists, no credit and “this duct tape makes you hush.”
Enhancing the cinematic quality of Houndmouth’s tunes are four members that all know how to interpret a lyric, particularly Myers and keyboardist Katie Toupin. Hear Gasoline, with the opening line, “Oh, how you talk a big game,” and follow as Toupin wistfully glides into the story of a woman whose misery has at least a little something to do with herself.
To an extent, this is a producer’s album, with Dave Cobb giving all these songs ideal settings, be it the raucous and distorted 15 Years or the simmering album closer Darlin’.
But still, it is these songs and occasional slap-you-upside-the-head lyrics like the tune that starts, “My Cousin Greg is a greedy son of a b—-” (My Cousin Greg) that make this album great. And you gotta hear about Greg, though it’s probably better you don’t know him.
In the chorus, Houndmouth sings, “If you want to live the good life, you better stay away from the limelight.” If Houndmouth keeps putting out albums like this, they’d better watch out.