Hayley Thompson-King Blends Opera Background and Blistering Country Rock on ‘Psychotic Melancholia’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

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From the charged up opening licks of her new album Psychotic Melancholia, it’s clear as day that Hayley Thompson-King is here to kick ass and take names. You’d hardly know this fiery rock and roll queen has a formal education in music (she graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music) as her music feels like it was reared in a Southern roadhouse. Psychotic Melancholia finds her teaming up with her bandmates Chris Maclachlan, Jonathan Ullman, and Pete Weiss to cram a mélange of rockabilly, psychedelia, country and folk sounds into nine hard-hitting songs for maximum sonic impact.

Psychotic Melancholia definitely establishes Thompson-King as a musical force of nature hellbent on forging a sound that is both powerful and nuanced. She often wears her influences on her sleeves, but also isn’t weighed down trying to be something else. “Large Hall, Slow Decay” comes out swinging like the bastard child of Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins before the slowburning “Dopesick” showcases Thompson-King’s huge vocal chops and feels reminiscent of early Lucinda Williams. “No Room For Jesus” kicks things back into high gear with blistering Black Keys-esque splendor, making for one of the most infectious and danceable songs on the album. We get this same level of deliciously raw garage rock intensity with “Lot’s Wife”, another standout. Despite all the rock and roll, some of the album’s strongest moments come during its slower songs. Thompson-King manages to show off her operatic training on songs like “Soul Kisser”, “Melancolia”, the triumphant country ballad “Old Flames”, and the hauntingly beautiful if not a touch out of place opera piece “Wehmut”, which is a German concept loosely translating to melancholy and nostalgia – two things this album is full of.

Whereas many of her peers seem to be embracing a mellow outlaw country sound that already feels stale, Thompson-King is aiming straight for the jugular with explosive rock and roll. At times on Psychotic Melancholia Thompson-King is like a female counter-part to JD PcPherson, but she also does a fine job of inserting her own unique range of influences into the album to make for a sound that stands on its own.

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