Hey everyone, it’s Charlie, and this week I’m excited to tell you about The Hunts, an indie-folk alternative group out of Virginia. The group is seven brothers and sisters, and I would ordinarily call their music something out of this world - but I’m going to argue instead that their music is distinctly of this world, and that’s precisely what makes it so remarkable.
When I first heard The Hunts’ music, I lost myself in it, and forgot that I would need to write an article: tracks like “Lifting the Sea” from their 2015 record Those Younger Days come in softly with a single instrumental track then land you suddenly in a woodsy atmosphere, surrounding you with layered vocals that drop in and out with an irresistible rhythm. It wasn’t until I heard the 2018 record, Darlin’ Oh Darlin’, that I found the right words for what their music brought to mind: it was as if the world were speaking to me, each tree and blade of grass singing along with The Hunts’ immersive and energy-infused lyrics. I understood, then, that what’s remarkable about The Hunts’ sound is that these seven siblings have created a musical version of the wind in the woods.
There’s an instrument called an “aeolian harp” that has inspired artists for centuries: it’s a stringed instrument that’s played only by the wind, named for Aeolus, the Greek god of the winds. The Hunts have done something remarkable with their music in that they’ve recreated an ethereal yet natural impression of an aeolian harp, and done so with seven perfectly harmonious musicians. Maybe their almost supernatural harmony comes from being siblings - it’s well known that siblings’ voices blend more easily than others do, and it accounts for their obvious comfort with one another on stage - but that doesn’t account for the way their music seems necessary, like a growing wind. Listening to Darlin’ Oh Darlin’ brings you closer to the natural world in a joyous, surprising way, as though you’ve gone on a walk in the woods and heard harmonies blowing through the trees.
One of the reasons I was drawn to “Lifting the Sea” is that it showcases this impression: it opens with a single strumming mandolin, and when the vocals drop in they’re a layered humming sound, like a rushing wind. This repeats a few times, inviting you into the natural atmosphere that they’re creating, before the lyrics begin - and even these are rooted in the natural world. The chorus runs:
Waves, lifting the sea,
Waving at you, waving at me
Lines like these drop you at the shore, the wind pushing past you into the trees at your back, and connect you to the natural world in a vital, intimate way. This fades back to the rushing hums of the introduction, never pushing you out of the environment they established. Each of their songs is like this - they pull you into an environment, totally immerse you in it, and allow the song to breeze through you.
The Hunts took on a challenge with Darlin’ Oh Darlin’, in that they created a cohesive environment like this in the album as a whole. The album doesn’t have a title track: it has two. The first track is “Darlin’,” and the last is “Oh Darlin’.” Like a reprise in a musical, “Oh Darlin’” ties you immediately back into the earlier track. The second iteration of the song, though, bears the history of the album inside it: every note has a weight that the opening track does not. We remember some lines from the first track, like this verse:
Any time I think of you
My heart is on my sleeve
I wear it more often now
That you’re not here with me.
By the time they reoccur on the last track, though, they carry an album-worth of emotional resonance and show how guttural and utterly natural The Hunts’ music is. There is nothing forced about these lines, nothing artificial about the emotion that bears them. It’s as though The Hunts themselves are a single aeolian harp, played by the impulses of nature and as genuine as the wind, that doesn’t know how to be any other way. I hope you’re as excited as I am to see them play in November.