Kilhoffer not only infused the band's songs with electronic beats, he pushed Hey Marseilles to zero in on each tune's best hook, get to it quickly, and return to it often.
The results are striking: Hey Marseilles is catchy, concise, and dramatic, blending melodies with a sense of grandeur in songs such as "Eyes on You," "West Coast," and "North and South" striking a balance between the band's past and its future.
Kilhoffer’s suggestions have lead to more than a handful of shining moments throughout the album’s 11 tracks. There’s electropop fervor (“My Heart”), piano-pop charm (“Eyes on You”), and inspiring collaborations (“Perfect OK” featuring Reggie Watts). There’s even a heartfelt cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes”.
The infusion of electronic framework pairs strongly with Hey Marseilles’ multi-leveled harmonies. The carefully orchestrated synths lift the vocal arrangements to an ethereal sound. It’s clear that adding and subtracting the presence of digital sounds allowed the members of Hey Marseilles to control the theatrics of their songs as well.
There’s more force, too, and more gravity. Yet at the same time, the new built-up songs are easier on the ears. The hooks make sense the first time you hear them, both musically and linguistically. There’s no hopeless deciphering needed, as is the case with some other indie bands.
It would be tempting for an old fan to accuse the band of assimilating to a pop, hook-driven genre of music. But in reality, Hey Marseilles handles its new music with a masterful finesse. The songs aren’t kitch or cliche, but rather more refined and thoughtfully-structured.
The most important aspect of “Hey Marseilles” is that the group holds to its original spirit. Just like the old days, Bishop still reflects on love entangled with the pale beauty of Washington, and a cast of somber strings and guitar accent his emotions.
Credit goes to the unlikely producer choice: Anthony Kilhoffer, who has worked with Kanye West and John Legend. Anthony works surprisingly well with the band, accentuating their sharp pop hooks and transitioning between natural and electronic drumming. The transitions into and out of more pop and electronic sounds is pretty seamless, letting Hey Marseilles’ natural songwriting abilities come to the forefront.
Highlighting particular songs is generally a useless exercise, as this self-titled record is a remarkably consistent effort. The band’s ability to go all-in on sonic experimentation to augment their indie style has worked wonders on this record. It’s not a revolutionary record by any means, but it’s a revelation for the band and a wonderful album.