When a band has a unique and/or amazing singer, there's sometimes a tendency for them to become too reliant on that voice. While it usually works on short releases, it usually takes some truly outstanding songwriting and/or instrumentation to hold up on a full length release. Even a singer like Vashti Bunyan, who has one of the more unique voices out there, employed some very unique backing music on her debut album (and then again on her follow-up three decades later). An extreme example is Bjork, who despite having possibly the most recognizable female in music, tries to re-invent herself musically on each of her albums.
I mention all of the above because The Finches are a good, and at times even great group. They have a singer with a wonderful voice in Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs and they charmed me mightily with their debut 6 Songs EP. At the very end of that review, I expressed a little trepidation, wondering if they'd be able to keep things up for a full length album, and despite some outstanding songs on Human Like A House, some of my fears have been founded.
In terms of instrumentation, the group keeps things basically as they did on their debut, with two-part guitar melodies providing the backbone of every song, with some additional instruments (bass, cello, steel guitar, a touch of drums) filling out a couple tracks. The songs themselves are very pretty, leading off with the album-titled "Human Like A House" and basically continuing for the length of the release (twelve songs and forty five minutes). Some particular standouts include "Last Favor," where Aaron Morgan adds some nice harmony vocals to offset the ubiquitous Riggs. The haunting "Nightswimming, AR" is possibly the best song on the album, with slow and sparse guitars that sound fragile enough to stop at any moment.
"The House On The Hill" is one of a couple tracks that add some drums, and it's a welcome change as it chugs along with some marching snares and thin kicks as the song slowly builds to a section with backing chorus and chimes. Outside a short section on "Step Outside," the album doesn't really offer much of anything in terms of dynamics, and that sort of pacing makes the album seem much longer than it is. In a couple places on their debut EP, the group moved forward with a sense of urgency, but songs on Human Like A House basically progress one of two ways - slow and slower. The result is an album that's undeniably pretty, but incredibly lethargic. The group certainly doesn't need to rock out to prove their point, but there's a point at which it all starts to run together.