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Hanson - Topic

The Walk Play

Going independent was not only the best choice for Hanson, it was in many ways their only choice: they needed to prove that they could stand on their own as a band, to find their way into adulthood on their own. As they were leaving their adolescence behind, they began to battle the major labels, who thought the band should go in a different direction than the trio itself did, eventually leading them to form their own label, 3CG Records, releasing Underneath in 2004 as their first indie release. It showcased a band with exceptional pop smarts -- the kind of instincts that make for great pop records but don't really have much of an outlet in the 2000s outside of independent releases. Its 2007 follow-up, The Walk, is very much in the same vein, except it reveals the band developing a bit of a middlebrow adult contemporary streak, best heard in the plodding wannabe anthem "Watch Over Me," which is a bit too self-conscious in its good intentions. As always, Hanson shines when they devote themselves to pure pop, and The Walk has several exceptional moments here, including the deliriously good "Running Man," which shivers and shakes like classic '70s soft rock; the sleek, funky "Tearing It Down"; the bubbly, infectious "I've Been Down," propelled by a classic electric piano riff that brings it close to the bastard son of Steve Winwood and Billy Joel; the closing "Something Going Round," which updates "MMMBop" by keeping things lean and muscular. Even "Got a Hold on Me," heard on the bonus track-laden American version, demonstrates where they could go with their ballads, in how it marries a spooky verse evocative of Radiohead (complete with an extraneous cancer reference) to a poppy chorus -- it feels more natural, and is more memorable than much of the muddled middlebrow ballads here. Fortunately, that midtempo murk may loom large in the memory but doesn't really make for too much of the record -- enough to be noticeable, but not enough to make The Walk anything less than another very enjoyable pop album from Hanson. It's just that there's an excellent, tight, concise pop masterpiece buried within this slightly overstuffed but worthy record. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Shout It Out Play

Back when “Mmm-Bop” mania swept through the land, Hanson were often praised for their deep roots in oldies, their sense of songcraft catapulting them beyond mere teeny bop sensations. As they got older, the craft naturally deepened at the expense of enthusiasm -- it’s part and parcel of growing older -- but they retained a sense of spunk, enough to give such latter-day records as The Walk a bit of juice. Contrary to its exuberant title, 2010’s Shout It Out doesn’t reverse this trend. Here, Hanson take their cues from the late-‘80s records of Steve Winwood and Billy Joel, and wind up with an album that has the punch of Roll with It and the flash of The Bridge. Craftsmen that they are, Hanson are sharp enough to keep things tight, the songs and the album itself never lasting any longer than necessary, and the music is finely honed. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Underneath Play

Growing up is hard to do, particularly if you do it in public. Hanson found this out when their second album, 2000's This Time Around, failed to gather much attention, let alone a hit the size of 1997's "Mmm-Bop," even though it was a solid step forward. Faced with lack of success and therefore a lack of support from their label, Hanson opted for the independent route, founding 3CG and releasing their third proper album, Underneath, in the spring of 2004. If This Time Around found the group undergoing growing pains, Underneath is the maturation of Hanson, scaled down and serious, pitched halfway between the adult alternative pop audience and the power poppers who embraced their giddy early singles. Giddy is hardly a word to describe this album, however, since there's an earnest even-handed approach even on the tunes that veer toward effervescent, hooky pop, such as the catchy "Get Up and Go." This deliberate maturity isn't a detriment, since it emphasizes the pop/rock classicism that's always been at the core of their music; after all, one of the charming things about Middle of Nowhere is how it was clear that the trio's tastes were built on Time/Life's oldies collections. Even though Underneath is a little too polished and Pro Tool-ed, that pop sensibility still rings loud and clear throughout the album, and track for track, it's likely their strongest album, even if it lacks glistening highlights along the lines of "Mmm-Bop." Despite this, the brothers are strong pop songwriters -- there's a reason why the likes of Matthew Sweet and Gregg Alexander of the New Radicals collaborate with them on this record (on "Underneath" and "Lost Without Each Other" respectively) -- and what makes Underneath a better album than This Time Around is that the focus remains on the songs, with the melodies and hooks pushed toward the center. There is a bit of a dichotomy here, as the sound of the record is targeted toward adult alternative airwaves and the trio's writing is closer to power pop, but it's a pleasing dichotomy since the two aesthetics wind up complementing each other. Hanson might be a little bit better off if their production wasn't as rigorously crafted as their songs -- they would be a little more exciting, a little more fun if they loosened up a bit -- but that's a minor complaint, since Underneath is a satisfying album that finds the trio confidentially stepping into adulthood. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Snowed In Play

Hanson delivered their second album in remarkably quick fashion, releasing Snowed In a mere six months after Middle of Nowhere. Granted, Snowed In was a Christmas album, but its speedy conception, recording and release shows how market-savvy Hanson and their management are. For a rushed effort, it's not half bad, containing some real charm and a smart selection of songs, but without hip producers like the Dust Brothers and Danny Saber on board, the record sounds more conventional than before, playing up their classic rock tendencies to the hilt. As a result, Snowed In is entertaining, but it suggests that the group may find themselves running out of ideas a little faster than Middle of Nowhere suggested. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Middle of Nowhere Play

Sounding like a post-alternative version of the Jackson 5 -- complete with effervescent harmonies, sunny melodies, rolling hip-hop beats, and dense, layered productions -- Hanson is positively bubbling energy throughout its surprisingly infectious and melodic debut, Middle of Nowhere. It's hard not to hear the lead single, "MMMBop," or the similary infectious "Where's the Love" and not get caught up in the joy of making music. Although the boys co-wrote nine of the 13 songs with professional writers, and the producers do offer a distinctive stamp, the personalities that shine through are Hanson's -- youthful, exuberant, and positively joyous. A few of the songs may run on a bit too long, and there are a couple of borrowed melodies and silly lyrics, but Middle of Nowhere is a delight. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

This Time Around Play

Give Hanson credit for making a second album (not counting live affairs, demo collections, and holiday records) that virtually ignores the teen-pop boom they kick-started in 1997 with their debut album, Middle of Nowhere. This Time Around doesn't ditch the musical principles laid out on Middle of Nowhere -- it expands them. Hanson winds up synthesizing its influences -- still primarily classic pop tunes from the late '60s and early '70s, staples of oldies radio -- into a bright, melodic sound of its own. Problem is, you can occasionally hear them working at it. Much of This Time Around feels like a conscious attempt at furthering their craft, defining their sound, and honing their songwriting skills. It's a stab at maturity. Not only are the performances measured and the production restrained, but the album features cameos by virtuosos like John Popper and Jonny Lang, just to prove that Hanson can hang with the big boys. They can, but so what? Jams and instrumental interludes are not the reason to listen to Hanson, records that sparkle with effervescent melodies and joyous hooks is. They haven't lost these gifts, even if the tempered production and overly earnest perf``ormances occasionally make the band's classicist instincts sound stuffy. There's something to be said for self-conscious maturity; by carefully watching over every aspect of the album's creation, Hanson and producer Stephen Lironi wind up with a record that is better paced and more consistent than the debut. It's hard not to miss the thrilling way Middle of Nowhere leapt out of the speakers upon its first spin with giddy fun, yet with its carefully considered craft and warmly ingratiating pop songs This Time Around is winning entertainment. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Anthem Play

Old pros since childhood, Hanson long ago shed the exuberance that characterized the records of their youth, yet they've never switched their pop blueprint. They still pledge allegiance to classic rock, rooted in the '60s but seen through the prism of the '80s, with the latter decade taking precedence as the group ages. More and more, they're starting to sound like the legions of middle-aged '60s vets who turned out punchy, polished nostalgic work toward the back half of the '80s, a sentiment that certainly is true of 2013's Anthem, the trio's sixth record and an album that lives up to its title. Hanson never play it small here; they've beefed up the songs and girded the production with steel, so it's all towering, almost overwhelming. Often, the songs are likable but too slight to withstand this kind of bombast, and yet it's hard to imagine Hanson opting out of this gilded sound. They're too fond of the clean, sharp corners, the snappy bombast of synthesized horns, crisply phrased soul riffs adapted from the Jackson 5; they can play and want you to know it. Hanson are talented craftsman with an innate ear for pleasing pop hooks, and although the scale of Anthem can be a little too grand, when sampled in small doses the trio remains a reliable pop pleasure. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

20th Century Masters - The Christmas Collection Play

Credit must go where it is due: Universal marketed this album to help sustain Hanson's longevity and provide a nice stop gap until the next record. However, most loyalists to the Hanson fan base already had this album on their shelves when it reappeared in 2004, since it was previously issued in 1997 under the title Snowed In. But for those who missed out the first time around, this provides a nice trip down memory lane and still holds up after all of these years as a most charming record. ~ Rob Theakston, Rovi

The Best of Hanson: Live and Electric Play

The Best of Hanson: Live and Electric is not a compilation; it's a live album, capturing the band on their supporting tour for their 2004 album Underneath. It's not their first live album -- about a year and a half after their 1997 major-label debut, they released Live from Albertane, which was a little fast for a live record, but it does illustrate just how crazy Hanson mania was in the late '90s. Here in 2005, Hanson not only have a larger repertoire to draw from, but they're a different band: they're older, stronger, road-tested, and tougher. They're a mature band now, usually for better, but sometimes for worse, as in on their opening gambit of covering Radiohead's crawling "Optimistic." It's a move that practically begs for the band to be taken seriously, to not be thought of as teen pop sensation, and the self-consciousness of the cover is awkward. But that's the only false note on an album that's tight, lean, and quite entertaining. Every song here, whether it's a newer tune or their old hits "Where's the Love" and "MMM Bop," is given an arrangement that is simultaneously stripped down and opened up, giving the trio -- augmented by Pete Griffin on bass and Aaron Kaplan on electric guitar -- plenty of space to jam. In a way, this is as much as a throwback to the era of late-'70s live albums as their first records were a throwback to late-'60s/early-'70s bubblegum: there just aren't many live albums any more that sound like a band in concert, revealing a different side of the band, one where the songs seem to gain strength in a live setting. That's not to say that this is the second coming of Frampton Comes Alive! or, even better, Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous, but this is nevertheless a very good live album that will certainly satisfy hardcore fans and, if given a chance, could change the minds of some skeptics. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
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