Hammock’s fifth full length album, “Departure Songs,” is their first double album and their most progressive piece to date. Hammock offers elegant soundscapes with majestic swells and crescendos. “Departure Songs” meets all of the expectations of a Hammock listener with the duo’s mesmerizing guitar work of beautifully layered guitar tracks drenched in effects pedals galore, but it doesn’t stop there. “Departure Songs” surpasses all the previously established bounds of Hammock. The mix of programming and drums, huge string swells and floating vocals featuring intricate and genuine lyrics shows the evolution of Hammock. And yes, you heard right—lyrics, a rarity with Hammock. Though this is not a concept album, the underlying theme of weather runs throughout the entire double album, beginning with “Cold Front” and ending with “Tornado Warning.”
Understanding that it is difficult to hide my musical bias, I am thoroughly honored to report that “Departure Songs” has been perfected to say the least. Gratefully enough, the most difficult aspect of reviewing this record is selecting the most powerful tracks out of a sea of brilliance, but I have managed to focus on two particularly moving songs. The first is “Ten Thousand Years Won’t Save Your Life.” This moving song that begins with very soothing textural soundscapes that welcome strings and vocals further back in the mix until the drums enter and the song builds. The song offers an honest preview of the album, showcasing their breathtaking compositions that offer the listener an earful of growing guitar textures and melodies, airy vocals from both Marc Byrd and his wife, enchanting scores of strings and an overall cinematic musical experience. The lyrics in this song only contain one haunting and succinct line, “It takes so long for you to realize / ten thousand years won’t save your life…”
The last track on disc one is “Frailty (for the Dearly Departed).” The piano based track that showcases the range of compositions on “Departure Songs” is like being swept away by the beauty of life. The extravagant layers of texture that leave nothing empty or dry lay underneath the beautiful piano melody, then towards the end of the song when the strings overlap the guitar ebow, other swelling guitar tracks and keys, you know that this is a masterpiece. It is a masterpiece that has been in the works for years. The piano melody that Marc Byrd has toyed with didn’t come into complete fruition until the other half of Hammock, Andrew Thompson, forced him to sit and flesh it out. Even though both of these tracks were on the first disc, don’t be fooled. The entire 19 track, 1 hour and 49 minute double album is worth all $12 on their bandcamp. For true music aficionados, Hammock has released a deluxe edition of the album that offers the album, a poster, a photographic print and a separate signed commentary on the tracks that isolates specific tracks to show their writing process and attention to detail (definitely worth the $60 price tag).
Even amongst many fantastic albums to be released this year (Mumford & Sons, Sigur Rós, and Right Away, Great Captain! to name a few), this double album is the best. All the emotions that Hammock conveys through textural ambient music that evolves into august crescendos is on this record, but all the bonuses make this into a 2012 masterpiece. Appreciation for Hammock is appreciation for authentic artistry.