Haunted Like Human Share Poetic Folk Harmonies on ‘Tall Tales and Fables’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Haunted Like Human is an unlikely duo in a lot of ways. First, guitarist Cody Clark got his start in metal and punk bands. This project is about as far from metal and punk as you can get. Second, the band started when Clark traveled from Oregon to Nashville in 2017 looking for collaborators. After a few days, he met vocalist Dale Chapman in a coffee shop, which led to a writing session for the two.

The band has always dwelt in folk sounds, and in that regard the new album Tall Tales and Fables is no different. However, this album shows the band expanding its sound to include more string arrangements that complement the spare melodies. Of the new album, Chapman said, “Every choice on this record was really intentional.” In that case, the duo should be congratulated for choosing so wisely on these 12 songs.

Vocalist and lyricist Dale Chapman has a background in poetry and prose, and that comes through in her lyrics. In the first song “September”, she tells the story of a relationship that has come to an end. It is a topic that has been written about in countless songs. That being said, Chapman expresses it in a way that is both poetic and relatable when she sings, “You burned this house to cinders like nothing here was mine.” The lyrics are powerful enough, but they are made even stronger against the spare melody that includes acoustic guitar, strings, and piano.

Of the duo’s songwriting process, Chapman said, “When we write, we will beat a couple lines to death for two hours. In the end, it gets us to something we’re really proud of.” Regardless of how long they beat a particular line, they come up with some memorable ones. One noteworthy line is in “Afterlife”, where Chapman sings, “People only ever write the nicest things on headstones.” It immediately gives you thoughts of songwriters like Warren Zevon, who was pretty good at turning a phrase with a dark mood.

The lyrics are enough to grab the attention, but they don’t grab your attention exclusively. The melodies in these songs are achingly pretty. You could say that about any number of songs, but especially about “City by the Sea”. The first verse focuses on upright bass and an acoustic guitar part where the notes are given plenty of room to breathe. From there, it moves to a string arrangement that is sure to make the hairs on your arms stand on end. The song is wrapped with lush harmony vocals that leave you wishing you could write something so pretty.

Tall Tales and Fables by Haunted Like Human is an album that will make you feel something, whether you focus on the rich melodies or the stories in these songs. Maybe it’s not an album that you’ll blare from the windows of your car, but it is an album that you can soak in and make the world go away for a while.

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