By Alessandro Improta
Hive Riot is the new project from the decorated Mindy Gledhill (more on her here) and her brother-in-law Dustin Gledhill. We all know what Mindy Gledhill is capable of as a musician, but this self-titled debut album is definitely unlike anything we’ve heard her do in the past. An impressive synth-pop duo, Hive Riot is powered by 80’s style beats and brilliant vocal hooks. Dustin Gledhill, an accomplished virtuoso pianist, lends his musicality to the shimmering synthesizers throughout the record.
This entire album lies somewhere between ballad and dance party. It constantly toes the line. As I listened I’d go from head-bobbing to daydreaming, toe-tapping to reminiscing, all in the same song. Mindy’s delivery is so soft and beautiful. She shows an incredible dynamic range, and her voice has a wonderful character about it. The way she pronounces her “L’s” is just so delicate, and the occasional, well placed voice crack gets me every time. That character shines through, even over the dance beats found on some of the tracks.
“Kiss My Lips You Fool” is a perfect example of this. Mindy’s wispy voice seems to contradict the track behind her. In fact, the juxtaposition between the vocals and the music was honestly pretty difficult for me to take in at first. I would start the song with a critical ear, trying desperately to pick it apart and find things that could be better – things I didn’t like. But every time I would find myself closing my eyes and leaning back with a smirk on my face thinking of all the times I’ve wanted to yell, “Kiss my lips, you fool!” to that special someone. To me, this is a tell-tale sign of a good song: it carries within itself an emotion so powerful and relatable that the listening experience transcends both the music and the lyrics. The song becomes solely about the listener re-living their own feelings and experiences, only this time with a different soundtrack. “Kiss My Lips You Fool” is a great song.
Though the album never quite gets all the way to the dance party end of the spectrum, one of the singles, “Sherlock,” gets pretty close. I didn’t quite feel the need to reach for my strobe light, but this song definitely gets you moving a bit. I could absolutely see a bunch of brightly dressed youngsters blasting “Sherlock” while jumping up and down and doing the robot… or something. This song also contains one of my favorite lyrics from the album: “You live a little more outside the box / you don’t wear socks / your bed head rocks my world.” It isn’t deep or philosophical, but it is beautiful in a simple way. When someone means the world to you, the small and insignificant things about them become monumental in your eyes.
On the ballad end of the spectrum is “Her Elegy.” An elegy is defined as “a poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead.” This definitely seems to fit that description. I cannot confirm if it is, in fact, about the death of a loved one, but lyrics like the opening lines (“It takes a lot / to carry on / To hold my head up when you’re gone”) really seem to hint towards that being the case. This song is hauntingly beautiful. The lyrics are filled with colorful imagery, (try this one on for size: “I’ll watch you fade to black and white / when I Love Lucy’s on tonight / Like wildfire, the colors spread / a patch we’ll quilt upon Earth’s bed”) and honest, thought provoking lyrics (“In all I say, in all I do / my life will always echo you”). Again, this is a song with built in, relatable emotions that creates a transcendent experience, though in a much more somber way than before. When Hive Riot references what seems to be old memories of playing piano and filling the room with “Danny Boy and old time tunes” with their lost loved one, for me it conjures up memories of playing Scopa with my Nonna as a child, and hearing her stories of what it was like growing up in the old country.
The rest of the tracks dance enjoyably back and forth along that ballad/dance party spectrum. The notable “Fish Out Of Water” shows that Hive Riot is equally as effective with a more subdued arrangement as they are with layers and layers of arpeggiated synthesizers and dance beats. The snaps in that song are deliciously resonant, and Mindy’s vocals at 2:41 are to die for.
I have to say, there isn’t a lot to critique about this album. But one thing that did stand out to me is that it is difficult a lot of the time to pick out the lyrics. It made it a little harder to relate to the album upon first listening. This is in part due to Mindy’s style, but mostly it’s a production issue. The vocal levels are right, but the problem is caused, in large part, by the abundant use of reverb and delay on the vocals throughout the album. Though this effect is good for creating an ethereal sound, it muddies up the annunciation and can make listening for the lyrics difficult. This is a real shame because some of these lyrics are real gems and deserve to be heard.
This is a great album for several reasons: it is unique – very different from a lot of the music coming out of Provo recently; it is well written and well executed; and it is undeniably fun. But at the end of the day, what really makes this album great is Mindy Gledhill’s mesmerizing vocals and the interesting contrast in voices at the times when Dustin joins in.
When reviewing an album, I tend to end up listening to it a lot. A LOT. I’ve listened to the Hive Riot album about 20 times in the past week or two. Usually by the end of the reviewing process, regardless of how good the music might be, I am pretty sick of it. However, with this album, a few of the tracks have made their way into my playlists and will be playing in my car on the way to and from work for weeks to come. Now that’s saying something.