Portland quartet Houndstooth (John Gnorski, Katie Bernstein, Graeme Gibson, Cari Palazzolo) make a sophomore jump with their second album, No News from Home, casting words, pennies and shimmering guitars into the foggy gloom of life and following everything that catches a glint. Following their 2013 debut, Ride Out the Dark, the band’s chief weapons — songwriting guitarists Katie Bernstein and John Gnorski, drummer-producer Graeme Gibson — remain intact, which is why a band that was so good out of the gate has only redoubled its powers, evolving into a deeper version of itself. Bernstein’s sui generis vocals scout the uncertainlands, each word a crescent, hooked lines swinging you out and reeling you back in, conjuring a sweetbitterness. If their songs were pictures, they’d be William Eggleston photographs – overheard stories in heated-up kodachrome.
That’s why No News from Home is both kinds of album we need right now: the quiet admission of its title like a warming cloak in the cold night air, a little truth draped over our weird lives. At the same time, a cool, undimmed confidence peers out into the darkness, equal parts longing and wonder, as the group’s sharp jangle and surging chords navigate every quicksilver turn of the heart.
Like a master class in rock and roll history, Houndstooth are descended from bands like Fairport Convention, Velvet Underground, and Crazy Horse – the guitars seemed to tell half the story. No matter where you stand, sit or lie in 2015, No News from Home will clear your vision, shore up your resolve and nick at your heartlight. Don’t look away.