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Hopewell 

Hopewell & the Birds of Appetite

If they could somehow meet, what would the Hopewell of 1997 make of the Hopewell of 2005? The former's Purple Balloon EP was a winsome, unkempt thing of joy; childlike, toybox psych horribly produced and navigated by singer Jason Russo, who was so inexperienced at the time that he didn't dare push too hard and thus let the music carry the day.

If '97's Russo heard Hopewell & the Birds of Appetite, he might be impressed by his newfound vocal range, the barn full of instruments employed, and the virtuosity he and his bandmates would come to display in their arrangements.

But could he hang with how haplessly boring and derivative Hopewell sound in 2005?

On Appetite -- which the band, tellingly, co-produced with Dave Fridmann -- the quartet try to listlessly remake the Flaming Lips and Pink Floyd in their own image, resulting in an interminable effort full of ethereal, rock-opera foyers and powder rooms that are lovingly appointed but lead nowhere in particular. It doesn't help that there's no real plot to speak of and a lack of the rough-and-ready meat such albums need to justify these grand, sweeping interludes. When the overstuffed "Trumpet for a Lung" lulls to show off a pretty piano and Russo's falsetto, the effect is meant to be heartbreaking, but instead feels cheap and empty -- like every other moment here.

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