Monday, July 25, 2011

Hannah Cranna: Better Lonely Days

For a few brief, shining years, the city of New Haven appeared to be on the verge of becoming the next Athens or Minneapolis in terms of a breeding ground for rock music. Its relative proximity to New York City as well as Boston made it a thriving scene for punk bands in the late ‘70s, which continued through the ‘80s with such bands as Miracle Legion and Those Melvins coming this close to capturing national attention.
As grunge became mainstream nationwide, some of the more cerebral musicians turned to power pop and for inspiration. That melodic equation is apparent all over Hannah Cranna’s Better Lonely Days. These songs, mostly of a romantic bent, are so crisp and catchy that you wonder why they hadn’t been written already. Strident rhythm guitars and tasteful leads drive most of the tracks, glued together by Beatlesque “ooh-la-la-la” harmonies.
The influences are fairly upfront—one song is even titled “Paul McCartney And Wings”, for crying out loud—but you’d be hard pressed to pinpoint any blatant steals. Nor will you notice that most of the songs are in G. Even with that, the sources are unexpected; “In The Sky” is adapted from an Emily Dickinson poem, while a modified arrangement of the Kinks classic “Waterloo Sunset” gives over a verse in favor of a thick solo.
The high point of the album is the stellar should’ve-been-a-smash “Hello”, which even gets away with a spoken interlude. Other standouts, like “Angeline”, “She Loves Me” and the title track, will also perk up weary ears.
They simply don’t make albums like Better Lonely Days anymore, and it would be awfully nice if someone did. As for the band itself, their self-titled follow-up sported some terrific songs and production by Badfinger’s Joey Molland, but unfortunately didn’t propel them much further than New Haven. After the turn of the century it seems they mutated into a variety of side projects, and the word on the street is that they’re recording again. If the new songs are anything like the ones on their debut, that would indeed be good news.

Hannah Cranna Better Lonely Days (1995)—4

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