It’s not only Pixies who have released a series of EP’s, only then to release them altogether as an album. ‘Triptych’ is The Hard Ground’s second full album following up from 2012’s ‘Broken Conversations’. It was conceived over a year and released bit by bit digitally, with the full physical release due in April 2015. If this is your first encounter of The Hard Ground, it is still a thoroughly worthwhile opportunity to get to know them.
The Hard Ground’s signature is the interplay of vocals between Marlene Enright and Pat Carey across multi-layered songs that reveal more on each repeat listen. This is intelligent alternative pop music, expertly crafted without a hint of feeling generic or restricted to a single formula. It’s thoroughly contemporary, polished and eminently radio friendly. The Hard Ground balance that fine line of wringing enough emotion without wallowing in sentimentality, resulting in a cheese-free album. The two-pronged approach to the vocals allows The Hard Ground to tackle several different tones, with Carey channelling his inner Dan Auerbach on the bluesy Ashes. This stands in contrast to the dream pop of tracks like Two By Two. The latter has Enright’s vocals as the focus and she is a calming presence, her soothing vocals provide a delicate hue.
The Hard Ground are at their best when creating slow burning tunes that gradually reveal themselves. Deep In Green, Capon and Pucker unfold like the seasons, where shoots of spring life make themselves known before inevitably blossoming towards the end. Musically the instrumentation switches between the spareness of piano sections on Young and Winter to more grandiose arrangements sometimes emerging during the same songs. Although conceived a three separate EP’s , this collection of songs is enhanced by each other’s company. The Hard Ground have succeeded in crafting a second album that not only banishes that difficult second album syndrome, but elevates them from mere promising beginners to the real deal.