The Hunches: Exit Dreams
(In the Red)

The good news here is that the Hunches have finished another album. The even better news is that Exit Dreams, the Portland, Oregon, garage-punk group's third full-length, is every bit as good as their first two, and then some. The bad news, though, is that after an upcoming tour to play the thing live, they're calling it quits.

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On Exit Dreams, the Hunches adeptly deconstruct standard garage-punk structures, wash the parts in mammoth distortion and punishing rhythms, and reassemble everything into a surprisingly cohesive cacophony. The approach sets them apart from similar acts, and Exit Dreams is rife with examples. In "Pinwheel Spins," frontman Hart Gledhill bellows, "my cup runneth over," while guitars wind and squeal over pounding drums—the song sounds like it's about to explode until all but the chord progression suddenly falls away, and when everything returns only seconds later, it pushes every level back into overload. The rudimentary guitar jaunt of "Swim Hole" repeats measure after measure until finally breaking apart into feedback oblivion, but it's sure to lodge itself in your brain and stay there for days.

Dreams batters beautiful fragments with beastly squalls, but somehow it all comes off seamlessly. That the band's songwriting has become so effortlessly catchy doesn't hurt. Gledhill's vocal range, too, has come a long way since 2002's Yes. No. Shut It., but it's the skilled placement of backup vocals that makes much of this record so anthemic. Exit Dreams may be the band's final album, but at least the Hunches are quitting while they're ahead. Nothing leaves the speakers sounding tired or boring, only content. Better go see the band next time they're in town, because it's probably going to be the last. recommended

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