Artist Spotlight: Hem

So I haven’t done an Artist Spotlight since last year. Which means you got a break from them…but I have TONS of artists I still want to share, so let’s bring sexy the artist spotlight back, and shine it today on a band (Harmony Avenue’s first spotlighted group since Local Natives)…

Hem!

So what exactly is Hem? A band with quite a simple name, and a simple…yet stunning aesthetic. Their music is a beautiful mixture of folk, Americana, rock, country, even tiny bits of jazz here and there…fronted by the golden-voiced Sally Ellyson, and gorgeously backed by strings and orchestral instruments. And guess what? You might have heard a bit of their music, provided you were watching TV a few years ago and a Liberty Mutual commercial came on (built around the heartwarming concept of strangers “paying it forward” and doing good deeds for each other in succession), backed by this song, called “Half Acre” (from the band’s debut album, “Rabbit Songs”):

Like quite a few of Hem’s current fans today probably can say, this is exactly how I found out about their music. I saw the commercial and heard a 30-second snippet of the song…and I really, really wanted to hear more. I had no way to find out what the song was and who sung it at the time, but probably close to a year after I first heard it, for some reason I decided to search around the Internet for the song, and found my answer…and from then on, I was absolutely, 100% hooked.

Here’s another tune from another Liberty Mutual commercial. It’s called “The Part Where You Let Go,” and is on an EP called “Home Again, Home Again.”

So I could basically just show you a bunch of their songs and call it a day…because like many great artists’ work, Hem’s music speaks for itself. IT’s gorgeous, heartfelt, lovely, simple, tender, warm…yet not “sleepy” or “boring” by any stretch of the imagination. It’s full of life and color, and the music practically dances into your ears. It’s comforting, but not bland…it’s heartwarming, but not treacly or overly sweet. It’s the perfect balance of heart and invention. Here’s three terrific tracks from their second LP, “Eveningland” (which is my favorite album of theirs so far, though all of them are terrific). Their names are “Pacific Street,” “My Father’s Waltz” (which might make you cry), and “The Fire Thief,” respectively.

(The video for “The Fire Thief” also features a song off their covers/B-sides album “No Word From Tom,” called “Oh No!” So there’s a bonus for y’all there. :))

One more song before we part. First, a passionate cut from their most recent full-length album (“Funnel Cloud”) called “Not California” (complete with official music video!), which apparently was partly inspired by lead songwriter Dan Messe’s wife being obsessed with shows like “The OC” and “Laguna Beach.” The song is called “Not California.”

Also, I couldn’t find anything to embed here, but Hem also branched out and provided the music for the summer 2009 Central Park production of “Twelfth Night,” featuring Anne Hathaway and Audra McDonald, among others. It’s lovely and sets the stage beautifully for…well, whatever the play was like. (Sadly, I was not able to see it in any form, but they did release the soundtrack.)

But wait! There’s more! As a special bonus (or punishment? :D) to you faithful readers, here’s a little something from yours truly. Enjoy, be sure to subscribe, and many thanks for coming to my blog in the first place. Keep listening! 🙂

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