Houston Music

Hop Sing

When you first pop in Hop Sing's debut EP, you're immediately reminded of the Old 97's. But to simply consign them to the ever-more-bulging bin of Old 97's imitators would be a mistake, as Hop Sing has a grittier sound. Steve Hitt's raspy croon helps in that department, as does their stronger punk influence, the result of having two veterans of Bickley in the band (and which comes through wonderfully in their straight-ahead choruses, complete with backing gang vocals).

Shifting between somber tunes ("Falling Down") and energetic rockers ("Fugitives"), these six songs balance one another perfectly and show a band with loads of talent. "Gunfire" is an anthemic whiskey-soaked barroom love song, and "Here We Go" finds the band twisting alt-country standards by incorporating a nice dose of Jawbreaker.

The disc gets extra points for its closing track, wherein the band joyously takes the piss out of Hitt's confessional lyrics. It's good to know there are still artists out there who don't take themselves too seriously. With that said, Hop Sing's greatest strengths lie within their direct and humble songwriting and in their having the courage to emblazon their admirable influences on their sleeves.

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Jason Gagnon