Appearances can be quite deceiving. Whether you’re judging books by covers or attractive young ladies by their attire, it can prove difficult to discern what really and truly lies beneath the heaping dollops of sheen, veneer, and makeup. Music often becomes an even tougher sell, what with programs like Pro Tools and functions like Autotune increasing the ease with which a producer can clean up a certain sound or vocal tick, while maintaining the glossiness of the record label’s chosen look. One is never too sure whether or not the band owes more to the producer’s knob-twiddling prowess and photographer’s airbrushing know-how than to their own talent.

So, upon first glance, it is rather dubious to claim that 4 skinny-jeans-wearing indie rock kids that make up the TX-based band Hymns can actually pull off the ambitious sonic palette that their PR material claims they wield. However, multiple listens through their sophomore project Travel In Herds ably demonstrates their prowess, in that, while the group brandishes their influences boldly, the swagger is all their own. The band confidently crisscrosses the musical map with the Being There-era Wilco-styled cut “I Can’t Be What U Want,” the Petty-esque track “Blame It On The Mountain,” and the Springsteen-ish song “Streets Alone.” Yet for the tendencies to simply sound like their forebears, it is the voice of Brian Harding that sets them apart, as he resists every possible temptation to belt the lyrics out with clichéd bravado, instead breathing the lyrics with an almost-too-restrained folky whisper. While Travel In Herds might not break any new musical ground, that doesn’t make the music any less appealing to fans of catchy country-tinged folk rock.

– Adam P. Newton [March 30, 2008]