Whenever you hear about some unknown band from the British Isles being heaped with mountains of praise, just remember: Things are different over there. Those people are all a bit goofy, what with their penchant for bad food and soccer riots. And if you browse through one of their music monthlies, you're certain to be regaled with torrents of glowing fluffiness for bands you'll find you hate once you have the misfortune of hearing them. (Of course, they aren't the only ones with inexplicable popular music peculiarities. Stateside we dig things like Three Doors Down and Creed.)
Hal is one of the latest of these bands. Not to say that Hal's self-titled release isn't worthy of any praise, because it is. It's merely that the amount of fawning ink the band's received is a tad over the top.
Here's what Hal really is: a musically passable pop/rock band in the vein of the Beach Boys at their cutest, or the ultra-trendy California Southern-rock revivalists Beachwood Sparks. Hal is also essentially a very safe pop band doing something done many times before. What saves the group from being totally forgettable is the fact that they can play their instruments well and can also write a decent song. They just aren't very original.
Beyond that, all you need to know is that Hal's biggest drawback is their vocals, which are way too clean and high-pitched. They're actually quite distracting -- I often found myself wondering just what sort of implement had been placed on the testicles of all those involved. Who can say? These boys live in Dublin and the only way to find them is to follow the dogs running through town toward the unbearably high-pitched wail emanating from their recording studio.