Ghost of Last Summer

Hula Hoop
555/75 OR LESS

After Rachel Grimes left the band, Hula Hoop continued writing songs, and from the leisurely, home-recorded feel, I suspect this batch was produced over a long period with different influences emerging throughout the process. Many tracks are reminiscent of late-’90s rock, like early Death Cab (“The Light”), a relaxed Fugazi (“Riverboat”) and dead-on Yo La Tengo (“Hot Tomato #1”), sending me to my music collection in search of forgotten “chill” favorites. “Graeme Downes,” the outstanding piano ode to the leader of The Verlaines, is the centerpiece, anchoring the others to a common, simple theme — the love of intelligent, slightly downcast rock. My lone reservation comes from the feeling that a few tracks could have benefited from polished studio vocals, putting exclamation marks on the more rocking songs like “Fly that Kite,” but that would be nit-picking and probably ruin the vibe of the album’s atmosphere: a group of musicians playing in the parlor room while crickets chirp and the neighborhood dog barks somewhere outside.