Hem, Funnel Cloud

Amanda Petrusich

By Amanda Petrusich

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Funnel Cloud

Rich, beguiling country-pop lullabies for adults.

It's not particularly surprising that Hem's Sally Ellyson scored her frontwoman gig by submitting a homemade cassette of lullabies to her future bandmates — the Brooklyn quartet's signature country-pop is just soft and languid enough to urge almost anyone deep into naptime, thumb planted mid-cheek, limbs flopping, lips curling up. Accordingly, Funnel Cloud, Hem's third full-length (not counting No Word From Tom, a collection of outtakes and rarities released earlier this year), features songs so obliging it's easy to forgive their sometimes precious arrangements, particularly given the band's welcome penchant for cutting lyrics (see the sharp-tongued "The Pills Stopped Working"). Joined by Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, who mews along to "Not California," his voice barely discernable behind Ellyson's big, blowing chorus ("And it's not true/And it's not fair/And it's not you/And it's not California here"), Ollabelle's Amy Helm, who helps howl the fiddle-infused "Too Late to Turn Back Now," and a 21-piece orchestra, Funnel Cloud is rich and dynamic, as beguiling as it is drowsy.